Saturday, November 30, 2019

Links of interest

This week's links will include stuff for the last two weeks. Last Saturday was the first day of AAR/SBL, so I was quite busy. That also means I didn't collect as many links as normal this week. Hopefully you will find something of interest to you.

For starters, Ron Sider reflects on Democrats and abortion:

Even if you think (as I do) that on a majority of issues, Democratic proposals (e.g., on racial and and economic justice, healthcare, taxes, climate change) are closer to a biblical vision than that of Republicans, still the ever increasing refusal of Democrats to take seriously the pro-life concerns of Christians and others is a problem.

Former President Bill Clinton told a good friend of mine that the reason his wife Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania( and therefore the presidency) was because of her radical stand on abortion. In 2008 when she ran for the Democratic nomination, she said abortion should be” legal, safe and rare”. In 2016, she no longer said it should be rare. The head of the Democratic National Committee recently told another good friend of mine that in his circles, one did not dare even use the word “reduction” when talking about abortion. . .

This rigidity is politically foolish. The Gallup Paul repeatedly has shown that about 25% of Americans think abortion should never be legal. 25% think it should be legal in every situation. And about 50% think abortion should be legal ONLY in certain circumstances.

One would think the Democrats would ponder the fact that Democrats very recently won the race to be governor in two very conservative states ( West Virginia and Louisiana) where Donald Trump won by huge margins in 2016. And both successful Democratic governors endorsed a pro-life agenda that would place some restrictions on abortion. . .

One final point. I do NOT think that abortion trumps all other issues. Universal healthcare is a pro-life issue. So are capital punishment, climate change, racial justice and effective poverty reduction programs here and abroad. One must evaluate the entire platform of candidates and decide which set of proposals on balance is better. People who seek a biblically balanced agenda in their politics will not be “one issue” voters.

Amen! And this one, from the Atlantic, about dishonesty in the abortion debate.
What I can’t face about abortion is the reality of it: that these are human beings, the most vulnerable among us, and we have no care for them. How terrible to know that in the space of an hour, a baby could be alive—his heart beating, his kidneys creating the urine that becomes the amniotic fluid of his safe home—and then be dead, his heart stopped, his body soon to be discarded.

The argument for abortion, if made honestly, requires many words: It must evoke the recent past, the dire consequences to women of making a very simple medical procedure illegal. The argument against it doesn’t take even a single word. The argument against it is a picture.

This is not an argument anyone is going to win. The loudest advocates on both sides are terrible representatives for their cause. When women are urged to “shout your abortion,” and when abortion becomes the subject of stand-up comedy routines, the attitude toward abortion seems ghoulish. Who could possibly be proud that they see no humanity at all in the images that science has made so painfully clear? When anti-abortion advocates speak in the most graphic terms about women “sucking babies out of the womb,” they show themselves without mercy. They are not considering the extremely human, complex, and often heartbreaking reasons behind women’s private decisions. The truth is that the best argument on each side is a damn good one, and until you acknowledge that fact, you aren’t speaking or even thinking honestly about the issue. You certainly aren’t going to convince anybody. Only the truth has the power to move.

But it's easier to shout at each other, isn't it? I am firmly prolife—from womb to tomb. That's why I am in favor of universal healthcare and against war. And that's why we need to address the inequalities in our society that force people to think that abortion is an option.

Ok, now for those of you who are sick of the "angry god" approach, take a look at this:

For Jesus, it’s not about whether we are sinners (he knows we are) or whether we are obedient to all God’s rules (he knows we aren’t). It’s about gratitude. We don’t deserve God’s grace, but God gives it to us anyway. We are healed. The challenge to us is whether we can live in gratitude. The challenge is for us to proclaim God’s ridiculous and excessive and undeserved grace for us sinners and thank God for it every day.
Now that is good news! And speaking of grace, Bob on Books reviews Grace Will Lead Us Home, about the Charleston church massacre:
I’m reminded of a Bible that was once my grandmother’s, probably looks much like Sanders Bible. She, like Felicia, loved the Bible, underlined many verses and wrote notes in the margins. She lived the Bible. I wonder how many in our churches are truly shaped by its message like the people in that Bible study, or like my grandmother. Instead of the disturbing messages that prey on fear, do they hear the Master’s “be not afraid.” Do they build walls or welcome the stranger and the alien? Instead of profiting from inequities, defining the world in terms of allies and enemies, and measuring one’s worth by what power one has, do they “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8)?
And a tale of racial reconciliation with two churches, one primarily white, the other primarily black, merging.
Three years into the merger, The Refuge remains united. Pastor Jay’s congregation in Kannapolis now numbers around 4,000. And Pastor Derrick’s community has swelled to 250 families. Through their love of Christ and their love for each other, Pastor Jay and Pastor Derrick have guided their communities through any divisions that might threaten their unity.

Could theirs be a model for healing our nation?

You will have to click the link for the answer : ) But it's easier to yell at each other, isn't it?

Speaking of healing, Jesus Creed has a good post on "Dry Drunks":

I think most people in most congregations are dry drunks. Here’s what I mean by that. Most people come to Jesus in some kind of crisis. Something is going wrong in their lives and they cry out to Jesus, and Jesus in His mercy saves them. They aren’t struck by lightning. Demons do not pull them away into the darkness.

The crisis is averted. Things get better. Things aren’t healed, but they are better. Now, feeling better, the person stops right there. They have met Jesus, but they don’t follow Jesus. They may be born again, but they don’t grow again. They’re stuck right where Jesus found them. The wounds, left untended, fester into bitterness. Their anger slowly stews into bigotry and self-righteousness. They delight in pointing out the failures of others and seem determined to make sure everyone is as miserable as they are.

Ouch! Shifting gears a bit, is Kafka still relevant? Crooked Timber says yes:
“A cage went in search of a bird”

Franz Kafka certainly knew how to write a story. The eight-word aphorism he jotted down in a notebook a century ago reveals so much about our world today. Surveillance goes in search of subjects. Use-cases go in search of profit. Walled gardens go in search of tame customers. Data-extractive monopolies go in search of whole countries, of democracy itself, to envelop and re-shape, to cage and control. The cage of surveillance technology stalks the world, looking for birds to trap and monetise. And it cannot stop itself. The surveillance cage is the original autonomous vehicle, driven by financial algorithms it doesn’t control. So when we describe our data-driven world as ‘Kafka-esque’, we are speaking a deeper truth than we even guess.

And so on. Well worth the read. Shifting gears again, Roger Olson discusses theological knowledge among the average church-goer. Hint: there isn't much, even among those going to Christian colleges:
I have taught Christian theology for forty years—to college and seminary students. I have noticed a definite “thinning out” of their knowledge and understanding of the Bible and theology and one culprit, I strongly believe, is the demise of hymns. Very few “praise and worship” songs contain anything biblical or theological. They appear to focus on God but seem actually to be designed to evoke emotions.

I’ve said all this before. The great hymns of people like Charles Wesley, William Cowper, Isaac Watts, Charles Gabriel, Johnson Oatman, Jr., and numerous others of the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries contained powerful lyrics that taught about God, salvation, sin, eternity, heaven, etc. Some of those songs are being rediscovered and put to new tunes or given new arrangements by contemporary worship leaders. But most of the songs I hear for congregational singing in major metropolitan evangelical churches are repetitious, shallow and unsingable by anyone except the worship band musicians. (emphasis original)

Yep. And an Aussie talks about the different way we treat males and females who are well-known preachers:
Can us male preachers even begin to imagine what that would feel like?! Our sisters put up with a thousand times more criticism than us, much of it disrespectful, cruel, belittling and hateful, much of it focused on their very identity not just their actions.

Observing the criticism of Jory Micah’s video reminded me that her critics aren’t simply expressing a different interpretation of Scripture to her. They are attacking her with openly sexist taunts.

Whether you agree with women preaching or not, it is incumbent on every male church leader to condemn the cruel and vicious sexism behind the attacks on Jory Micah. (emphasis original)

What we need is less toxic masculinity and more godly behavior. And Roger Olson has some thoughts on that:
Kimmel rightly criticizes the old advice to men who feel neglected and are disaffected: “Man up!” He rightly says that is not helpful. We need to show them how to man up and he points back to President Obama’s strong effort to support new job training for both men and women in America’s community colleges—free. He blames the Republican controlled Congress for killing that effort.

In other words, Kimmel is sympathetic to the plight of many men in America who, rightly or wrongly, feel disenfranchised and turned to populism in the form of Trump and the Republican Party. He argues, however, that their hopes in that direction are misguided. The case is really that the programs of the Left are more likely to help them. It’s like a great delusion.

In yet other words, Kimmel believes and argues that it will be counterproductive for society simply to ignore white men’s (and their wives’) complaints or to demonize them because they elected Trump and the Republican Party. He calls for a dialogue between feminists and anti-feminist men (not crazy, radical, violent ones) and a coalition of the willing to at least attempt to hear each other and work together toward a better world where there is true and complete equality between the sexes but men do not feel left behind.

There's that word dialogue again. Rarely happens, unfortunately. It's much easier to yell at each other. Or shoot each other. Speaking of which, here's an idea, from Jim West, after listing nine things, he concludes:
The Second Amendment says that you have the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t say you have the right to have bullets.
Elegant, but not going to happen. It's easier to yell at each other. And social media doesn't help. From the Atlantic again:
Many Americans may think that the chaos of our time has been caused by the current occupant of the White House, and that things will return to normal whenever he leaves. But if our analysis is correct, this will not happen. Too many fundamental parameters of social life have changed. The effects of these changes were apparent by 2014, and these changes themselves facilitated the election of Donald Trump.

If we want our democracy to succeed—indeed, if we want the idea of democracy to regain respect in an age when dissatisfaction with democracies is rising—we’ll need to understand the many ways in which today’s social-media platforms create conditions that may be hostile to democracy’s success. And then we’ll have to take decisive action to improve social media. (emphasis original)

Yep. But it's easier to yell at one another, isn't it?

How about the Mormons? They seem to be moving in the direction of orthodoxy, but before you rejoice too much, beware, says this blogger:

What I’ve written is only the tip of the iceberg regarding LDS heterodox beliefs, the sum of which is the “Restored Gospel.” The original true gospel had vanished at the end of the first-century apostolic era. That true gospel was then restored by Joseph Smith after some eighteen hundred years of apostasy. Really. I say it again. The “Restored Gospel” is Mormonism. Period.

Mouw blames Christians generally, and counter-cults specifically, for misrepresenting Mormon beliefs in an effort to malign them. I’ve encountered that myself. But Mouw misrepresents their beliefs in order to befriend and bolster them. Serious interaction with Mormons about their beliefs must be based on LDS scriptures and other official teachings, not on what a BYU professor might say. Smith’s visions and revelations contain startling instructions and information. . .

Definitely need to be cautious and watch for further developments on that front. I'm cautiously hopeful. Speaking of hopeful, there's a move afoot in some schools to revive the humanities:
The Cornerstone example demonstrates that the liberal arts can prosper even at a STEM-centered campus like Purdue. "We’re trying to show," said Reingold, that a liberal-arts education can be "central to the mission" even of a large, comprehensive research university.
I like that idea.

Finally, a look at how reporting influences attitudes. In this case, who's to blame in bicycle-car and pedestrian-car collisions. Mind you, they are not accidents, which implies they couldn't be prevented. They can be, but it isn't easy—and as we've seen in this series of posts, it's far easier to yell at each other, isn't it? Anyway, this post from Bicycling Magazine takes a look at how the way something is worded affects how people respond:

Version 1: The news story is pedestrian-focused; “Pedestrian struck and killed on east side.”

Version 2: The news story is driver-focused; “Driver hits, kills pedestrian on east side.”

Version 3: The news story is driver-focused and thematically framed; “Driver hits, kills pedestrian on east side as pedestrian deaths continue to increase city-wide.”

The researchers found that our current methods of reporting on traffic crashes, like in version one, influenced people to place more blame on the pedestrian; 43.1 percent of readers believed the pedestrian was at fault, while 50.2 percent thought the driver was at fault according to the first description of the scenario.

Yep. Blame the victim is the way it is usually reported. As a philologist and amateur linguist, I know words matter. Think before you speak/write. What response do you want? Hopefully it isn't outrage—but of course, it is easier to shout at one another, isn't it? Hmmm . . . seems to be a pattern here, doesn't it?

Ok, that's more than enough to ponder. Hope you had a truly thankful Thanksgiving Day, whatever it's historical origins (that's another series of posts that I won't be doing!).

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ah, the joys of travel (updated)

Well, after a very successful and good time in San Diego for the AAR/SBL conference, I am now experiencing the travails of November travel. I'm stuck in the airport of Fargo, ND after being diverted from the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport because of blowing snow. My flight leaves here at 2:00 PM on Wednesday (later today), so it will have taken about 24 hours to get home. Probably longer by the time I clear baggage claim, pick up my car, etc.

Oh, the things we do to sell books! : )

Update: The flight actually left a bit before 4:00 PM. Because Sun Country doesn't normally fly out of Fargo, they don't have a computer system set up there. They had to physically check us off against a printed manifest. Also because they don't normally fly out of Fargo, they don't have a gate. The Sun Country flight that was ahead of us was supposed to leave at 1:00. It still hadn't left at 2:45. At that point, another gate became available and they shifted us over there. If they hadn't done that, we would have been there another half-hour or so.

I finally landed in Minneapolis-St. Paul at 4:30. I had done a reverse park, stay, and fly, so I called the shuttle. It took over an hour for the shuttle because of being so busy and the roads being somewhat slick. I finally got home around 7:30 PM CST. That made for a bit over 24 hours in travel time. . .

Monday, November 25, 2019

But does it?

Jesus models the attitude that should mark the life of each member of the community: humble obedience. Thus the Philippian community is a to be a community marked by the cross. The community celebrates Jesus' death on the cross, and the cross also provides a symbol of the identity of the community. The community's identity is "cruciform," to use Michael Gorman's phrase. As the hymn portrays, its values contrast sharply with those of the ruling powers.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, pp 106&ndash7

Saturday, November 23, 2019

I know why!

I'm in San Diego for the Annual Meetings of the AAR/SBL. Over the years, I've noticed a trend. Back when I first started doing this, if you got to the workout room after 6:00 AM, you had a limited choice of equipment. I prefer a stationary recumbent. It used to be they would have three upright bikes and two recumbents, plus elipticals and treadmills. I sometimes ended up on an eliptical.

But over the years, the number of people in the workout room has dropped—and the number of bikes had dropped. This hotel has one each of the bikes, as well as four or five treadmills and ellipticals. Because of the small number, I went to the workout room yesterday at about 5:40. Sure enough, someone was on the upright bike, but that left me the recumbent. Interestingly, during my half-hour there, only two other people came in to workout; one on weights and one on a treadmill.

Knowing from experience that the first day of the conference always has the biggest turnout in the workout room, I went down at 5:30 to ensure getting a bike. No problem; no one else was there. When I left at 6:05, here's what it looked like:

Yep. No one was there. I'll bet the restaurants won't have that problem! And that, my friends is why the waistlines of Americans are getting larger.

Friday, November 22, 2019

San Diego!

I'm in San Diego for the Annual Meetings of ASOR and AAR/SBL! Watch for pictures, etc. on the Eisenbrauns Facebook page and Twitter feed. There's a picture of the ASOR exhibit there right now!

Where did it come from?

It is fair to say that the importance of Jewish psalms and hymns from the Second Temple period for the purposes of this study cannot be overstated. As Dead Sea Scrolls scholar George Brooke has noted, “The texts that reflect the prayer and worship of a community and its members are a, probably the, key indication of what the community thought particularly important."* Thus a careful look at early Jewish psalms and hymns will help us get to the heart of some of the most important aspects of early Jewish communities, and will be a good pointer to some of the traditions and values inherited by the earliest Christians, many of whom were themselves part of Jewish communities.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 61 *George Brooks, "Aspects of the Theological Significance of Prayer and Worship on the Qumran Scrolls," in Penner, Penner, and Wassen, Prayer and Poetry, 54 (emphasis original)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Hymns in the Greco-Roman world

Hymns, prayers, and religious poetry, we have seen, played a number of important roles within the larger sphere of ancient Greek and Roman worship. First, as hymns outlined the deeds, accomplishments, and characteristics of the gods in poetic or elevated style, they invited the listener or worshiper to embrace a particular view of how the divine and the human worlds engage one another. They thus played a role in passing on values and in teaching, even as they offered praise of the divine. Second, this passing on of values, teaching, and other worldview dimensions was not simply a rational, cognitive process, but also an emotional, affective one. Through painting a picture of reality, and inviting listeners into the imaginal world of the hymn, listeners not only heard content but also were ushered into an experience of the numinous. Third, and related, hymns carried a particular weight and authority of their own, as hymn writers often claimed (or sought) divine inspiration for their work and also drew on established traditions in their compositions. These conventions conveyed a sense of grandeur and conferred intrinsic authority on a hymn in a way that differed from other genres such as narrative or epistle. There was a conventionally accepted way to compose a hymn, and when done right a hymn conveyed something that other genres could not. Finally, hymns often addressed not only spiritual or religious matters but also issues of political importance, including human rulers and authorities. In this way hymns both carried on the tradition and served as vehicles for innovation. The visions of the divine conjured up by poets included within their scope the god—ordained rulers of the Roman Empire: this was an innovation, but one that was fully backed by the revered tradition of hymnic praxis.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, pp. 58–59

Monday, November 18, 2019

Birthing of the Church

The Christian community was embryonically fomed within the womb of worship.—John Anthony McGuckin, Paths of Christianity, 815, as quoted in Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 37

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Interesting links

Lost of them this week, especially if you follow the bicycling safety scene. Here's two of them, both from Bicycling:
The Actual Reasons More Cyclists Are Dying on the Streets: And, No. It’s not Really about Helmets.
1. Vehicles Are Bigger
2. Smartphone Use Is on the Rise
3. People Drive More Than Ever
4. There Are More Cyclists on the Roads
5. Vision Zero Has Stalled
And Turns Out, Mandatory Helmet Laws Make Cyclists Less Safe: Requiring All Riders to Wear a Helmet Has Proven Negative Effects.
We have seen over and over again that the following outcomes result from even the best-intentioned mandatory helmet laws:

A reduction in the number of cyclists on streets;
Financial struggle for popular bike sharing systems; and
More exposure among vulnerable populations to unnecessary interactions with police.

I can't resist; here is another one.

Here's a feel-good story about Mr. Rogers:

As for Fred: It’s true that he lost, and that the digitization of all human endeavor has devoured his legacy as eagerly as it has devoured everything else. But that he stands at the height of his reputation 16 years after his death shows the persistence of a certain kind of human hunger—the hunger for goodness. He had faith in us, and even if his faith turns out to have been misplaced, even if we have abandoned him, he somehow endures, standing between us and our electrified antipathies and recriminations like the Tank Man of Tiananmen Square in a red sweater. He is a warrior, all right, because he is not just unarmed, outgunned, outnumbered; he is long gone, and yet he keeps up the fight.
How about a compromise in the laptops in the classroom wars?

And Pete Enns on Antiexpertism: "Anti-Expertism: I Sort of Get It but I Don’t." And, here's a theologian I've never heard of, but should read: How a 20th century theologian became a quiet prophet for our distracted age." While Roger Olson asks "Who Needs a God Who Looks Like Us?":

I do not believe we need God to be like us. We need to be like God. And God has given us something of himself in the imago dei and offers us partial participation in his own life by grace.

Wanting God to be like me would be idolatry. There is nothing wrong with wanting God to be my companion, in solidarity with me, helping me to be more like him and to love others and to be the very best human in his image possible. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about here is the common desire, especially in some contemporary forms of theology, for a God who is like “us” (with “us” meaning some particular group of people).

Let me be blunt. God is not an American. God is not white. God is not male. God is not a capitalist. God is not a consumer. God is not literally father or mother. God is our parent and we are his offspring, but that is an analogy and in it he is the perfect parent and we are poor copies at best. God is not black. God is not female. God is not a radical revolutionary. God is not an Englishman or a German or any human nationality. God is not a big man with a beard and crown glaring down on the creation (as in Monty Python’s “Search for the Holy Grail” movie). God is not my co-pilot or CEO or business partner. (Most of these are drawn from real books or images I have encountered over the years.)

Amen and amen! Let's follow that with Michael Bird's op-ed:
Christians should not imbibe their political convictions from charismatic ideologues who either stir up rage within them or who scare them into prejudice. Christians should instead be prayerfully and thoughtfully considering what it means to follow Jesus in their own nation and neighborhood. Then, together with our church family, seek after things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable (Philippians 4:8), and humbling asking God to give us the wisdom and courage to pursue them (James 1:5).
Indeed! Along those same lines, Missio Alliance talks about being liberated by perfect love. A good Wesleyan theme! Their version does seem a bit too self-centered for my blood, but the perfect love of Christ will fix that.

And another look at work from Stephen McAlpine, in the first of a two-part series: "Work: A means of identity production AND stress production: Part 1"

You’ll be sitting on the couch exhausted, with a pile of marking/legal documents in one hand, your iPhone in the other, and a second glass of red wine in that third hand, exhausted and ready to cry. Geoff [a physical laborer] won’t have worked harder than you that day, but he will have drawn a line under it, in a way that you can’t – because the job won’t let you, and in a way that you won’t, because your sense of identity won’t let you.
Let's switch gears here a bit. The Anxious Bench asks How to break down prejudice. Turns out it's pretty easy (and hard): make friends who are different from you. Get outside the echo chamber.

And, last item: Scot McKnight looks at a book on being a Nicene Christian [emphasis below is original].

Finally, Ayers’ words remind me as a preacher that preaching for encounter–something that my charismatic/pentecostal forebears did with great passion – is not out of step with the faith of the fathers and mothers of the Church. There is no inherent contradiction between being a good exegete, being a good theologian, and being a good old fashioned “call you to the altar” kind of preacher. Rather, those dynamics – exegesis, theology, and encounter–are part of the single, seamless garment that the preacher wears, and preaching that does not seek to lead the hearer to a sacramental and transformative encounter with the living God revealed in the Incarnate Christ is not preaching at all.

Insisting on encounter as an essential part of the preacher’s task does not make us wild pentecostals (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) or fire-and-brimstone fundamentalists. It makes us Nicene Christians.

Let me encourage you, friend, to fall in love with the Bible again; to seek the living Christ revealed and revealing himself inside every page of the sacred text; to search for him as the treasure hidden in the field of Holy Writ; to seek him transfigured in every jot and tittle of the Law and Prophets.

Next week the Annual Meetings of ASOR/ETS/AAR/SBL are all happening. I'll at the AAR/SBL ones; if you're there, stop by and see me at the Eisenbrauns/PSU Press booth (638). Hopefully, I'll be posting before that, though : )

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Mirroring the heavens?

As we will see, there are hints in the Christological hymns of the New Testament that the earliest Christians saw their earthly worship as somehow mirroring unseen heavenly realities.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 18

Monday, November 11, 2019

New book

OK, new book. Hopefully you will find something to like in New Testament Christological Hymns; I know I have been. I purchased this one last year at the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting. I'm a little behind in my reading, as you probably have gathered by the slow pace of posting. Maybe this one will go a bit faster?

Anyway, here's the first excerpt:

Depending on the cultural and social world in which worshipers find themselves, not only may worship facilitate the broadening of one’s view of reality to include invisible, spiritual realities, but it may also take on the role of countering other claims that are on offer within the worshiper’s world. This is particularly the case when what is affirmed, proclaimed, and confessed about God in worship runs counter to affirmations, proclamations, and confessions that are accepted, or vying for acceptance, within society as a whole. As we will see, early Christian worship thus had very tangible and visible manifestations in words, actions, and rituals that made sense in the first century CE. It also offered a revolutionary worldview and countercultural perspective to those who participated in it.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, 12
<idle musing>
Indeed! And if ever we needed a countercultural look at the world, it is now!
</idle musing>

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Once more, round the 'net

An eclectic collection again this week. A friend of mine once told me I have the weirdest reading habits; so be it. I hope you enjoy this collection of various and sundry goodies (or baddies, as the case may be).

First off, many comments on the state of evangelical support for the current ruler. I think Michael Gerson's comments are probably the most appropriate:

The reform of evangelicalism is probably the work of men and women of a rising generation, who have significantly different views and values from their elders. About two-thirds of young white evangelicals believe that immigrants strengthen the country. Their approval of Trump is significantly lower. Time will work in favor of sanity.

But we should not underestimate the cultural trauma that many leaders of the religious right have inflicted. It is in the order of things that a younger generation should challenge the views and values of its parents. It is a source of cynicism and social disruption when an older generation betrays civilizing values in full sight of its children. Many evangelical leaders now lie drunk, naked and exposed.

Meanwhile, at the Anxious Bench, Chris Gehrz chimes in:
Evangelicals will only recover their witness when they forget about their brand — and the strong man politician they think protects it. Their activism needs to be brought back in line with the rest of the Bebbington Quadrilateral. It will take at least a generation, and it may never be the case again that evangelicals are known primarily as people who forgive those who have hurt them or their families, and as those who call people to conversion — “Give your life to Christ.” Calling on Trump to do exactly that would be a good start.
And, let's be an equal opportunity blog, Ron Sider offers a biting critique of the Dems, which is correct in my opinion:
The Democrats have a problem with religious people, especially Catholics and Evangelicals—and it is substantially their own fault.

Many Catholics and Evangelicals (including yours truly) find themselves closer to Democratic positions on many issues including racial justice, economic justice, creation care, combating global warming, tax policy that demands more of the rich, health care for all. But on religious freedom and abortion, many if not most Democrats stubbornly refuse to acknowledge and care for valid concerns of deeply religious people.

Think again about what "defending the gospel" means. According to Rodney Reeeves, it isn't what most people think it is (HT: Jim E.):
So, listen up crusaders, zealots, loyal members of self-sequestered theological clubs and secret societies: you're not defending the "truth of the gospel" when you alienate your brother and sister in Christ. In fact, according to Paul (the one you call your "beloved brother"), you prove you're not even justified by faith.
Yep. And Roger Olson takes aim at the Fundamentalists trying to pass themselves off as Evangelical spokesmen (and it's all men!):
In brief, what has happened is that people with fundamentalist temperaments and theologies have managed to mantle themselves with tremendous influence if not authority—as normative evangelical leaders. But they are the same people who fifty years ago would have been denouncing Billy Graham for being too inclusive and generous in his treatment of pastors (and others) who wanted to cooperate with his evangelistic crusades.
Yep. I'm old enough to remember when they denounced Billy Graham for letting his hair grow a little bit longer than "white sidewalls," saying he had gone liberal.

First Things has a feature on Rubio's "Common Good" economics. You need to read it; would that it became more of a norm:

Rubio said that economic growth is an inadequate indicator of economic health: “Economic growth and record profits alone will not lead to the creation of dignified work.” He argues for placing human dignity at the center of the economy. “Does our country exist to serve the interests of the market? Or does the market exist to serve the interests of our nation?”
Indeed! If only! Speaking of which, A.J. has an interesting dystopian view of the future:
Consider this scenario: At some point in the next couple of years, Tim Cook meets behind closed doors with Governor Gavin Newsom and and a handful of other political leaders. Here’s what he says:

“Friends, you know as well as I that this state is in a mess. The electricity in this part of the state is provided by a company whose idea of dealing with wildfires is to take away people’s power so the old and uninsulated lines won’t shoot out sparks. Many Californians have come to think it perfectly normal to step over homeless people — sometimes sick or even unconscious homeless people — on the way to work each day. Housing costs have forced thousands and thousands of people who work in our cities to live dozens of miles away, increasing the already infamous congestion on our roads. . .

Scary idea that probably will happen, or some version thereof.

Speaking of those big tech companies, there's a nice primer on anti-trust laws at Ars Technica. Do read it.

Times Higher Ed in an op-ed toys with the possibility that we've made professors too tame; how's this for a headline: "Why universities need to embrace their wild side. Lincoln Allison makes the case for the revival of the old-style academic eccentric." Sounds good to me : )

Is Martha overtaking Mary in your life? Read this for a nice romp through church history before arriving at the conclusion:

Why? Isn’t God’s creation good? Aren’t we supposed to celebrate the many-faceted active life God gives us to enjoy? Sure—but with two caveats. First, our active life is worthy of celebration only because it aims at the contemplative life. Without a contemplative horizon, our human activities turn into distractions. If the active life is all there is, it remains without telos to give it meaning. Contemplation fills action with truth, goodness, and beauty. It is contemplation that gives action a share in its luster.

Second, if the significance of action is derivative, this means that we should insist, without compromise, that contemplation (not action) is ultimate and makes up our eternal future. The reason is simple: The creator, not the creature, is our final end. Just as natural desires aim at a greater, supernatural end, so our active lives aim at something higher, beyond themselves—namely, eternal contemplation of God in Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, in the "what you eat" category, Michael Greger looks at food synergy and eating a wide variety. Good stuff, but he also includes this marvelous slam on the supplements market:
As T. Colin Campbell has pointed out, more than a hundred trials “overwhelmingly show no long-term benefit for vitamin supplements, along with worrisome findings that certain vitamins may even increase disease occurrence for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.” Supplementation with fish oil, for example, appears useless or, even worse, “posing increased risk for diabetes,” yet the science doesn’t seem to matter. People continue to buy them. “The public desire for quick fixes through pills…is overwhelming, especially when money can be made.”
And, finally, the National Transportation Safety Board just threw bicyclists under the bus. Bicycling Magazine has a good summary, but basically, as is the norm, it's a case of blaming the victim.
I’m not even sure where to start with this idea that calls upon cyclists to be more conspicuous. I’m certainly not arguing against riding with lights after dark, nor am I questioning people’s interest in gear like high vis apparel and daytime running lights. But this idea that folks riding bikes need to wear specialized clothing so motorists don’t hit them, especially when so many other dangerous driver behaviors and issues are being overlooked, is an insult to the perils American cyclists face every day. Like if you think I need to wear fluoro kit or a blinking vest because it’s just too challenging to see me on the road, maybe you should stow your iPhone or slow down or altogether reconsider driving a motor vehicle.
Yep. Put down the phone, folks. Did you know that 40% of drivers admit to using social media while driving, and 10% admit to watching a YouTube video! Come on folks! You are driving a 5000 pound powered missile. I don't care how many lights and helmets I have, you will do a good job of hurting me if I get hit. I know; I've been hit by a Ford F-150. It isn't fun and the driver felt terrible, too. I got off easy, just 6 weeks in a cast and some staples.

The end of the matter

Joseph and Saul recede into the background only because space at a critical juncture in each story is given to a more fortunate neighbor. One may even say that their less fortunate position is merely relative. On the one hand, this confirms that God deals with the world primarily through his chosen. Those who are unchosen derive their status from their relationship with the elect, and remain in the elect’s shadow. On the other hand, however, this may give some hope for those who are concerned with the fate of the unfavored ones. Perhaps their relative status vis-à-vis those who are chosen is not the last word concerning their destiny. Perhaps there is more to the fate of the unfavored than simply that which is made clear in the biblical narratives, where they remain eclipsed by their chosen neighbors.—The Unfavored, page 208

<idle musing>
And that's the end of this book. The conclusion reminds me of the conclusion to Chosen and Unchosen, by Joel Lohr and also in the Siphrut series. I personally think we've got the whole chosen/unchosen wrong; I tend to follow the thinking here and in Lohr's book.

Next up? Well, I've been reading New Testament Christological Hymns. I'll probably start posting from that. I've also been reading from Son of God, but that one doesn't lend itself well to extracting short snippets. I also just started Robert Miller's Baal, St. George, and Khidr, which will probably find its way onto this blog in time.

Meanwhile, it's two weeks before AAR/SBL and I have to finish up some things before the conference, so don't look for a flurry of posts before that.
</idle musing>

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Book Lust!

It's that time of year, just before the Annual Meetings of ASOR, AAR/SBL, ETS, and the publishers are working like crazy to make the conferences with their new books. And I'm going crazy looking at all the forthcoming titles! One just popped up today that makes my drool list:

Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, edited by Elijah Hixson and Peter J. Gurry, from IVP Academic.

And here's another, from Baker Academic:

Participating in Christ: Explorations in Paul's Theology and Spirituality, by Michael Gorman.

There are more, but those two definitely. And that new Cambridge Greek Grammar, and . . .

Wednesday, November 06, 2019


Words fail me. Via John Fea: The librarians of Citrus County, Florida wanted to buy a digital subscription to The New York Times, but the country commission will not let them do it because, as everyone knows, The New York Times is “fake news.” Yes, this is a true story. Here is a taste of Antonia Noori Farzan’s reporting at The Washington Post:
The librarians of Citrus County, Fla., had what seemed like a modest wish: A digital subscription to the New York Times. For about $2,700 annually, they reasoned, they could offer their roughly 70,000 patrons an easy way to research and catch up on the news.

But when their request came before the Citrus County commission last month, local officials literally laughed out loud. One commissioner, Scott Carnahan, declared the paper to be “fake news.”

<idle musing>
I can't even begin. You don't have to agree with the NYT, but they are trying to do a decent job. If you live in an echo chamber, how will you grow? Oh, that's right, the goal isn't to grow, it is to stay safe. Sorry, I forgot that. Now it all makes sense. Of course, when the ostrich sticks its head in the sand, it's safe, right? If you can't see it, it doesn't exist right?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Theologically rich reading isn't easy

In particular, as these segments [Gen 38, 49; 1 Sam 13:7b–15a] appear to have been written with a knowledge of Judah’s and David’s future election, stemming from traditions that appeared later than those captured in the stories themselves, they may be seen as suggesting that one fruitful way of reading these complex stories is to read them, so to speak, backwards. More specifically, a reading that is attuned to the compositional depth of these narratives will combine a linear approach with a complementary method that rereads the narratives with an eye on their future denouement. Such a robust interpretation will not be simplistic—that is, reading the crucial stories of Israel’s religious and political life as developing only from beginning to end—nor will it overwhelm the earlier stories with their later progress. A theologically rich approach will benefit from a dialogue between both linear and backwards readings that mirrors the development of the texts themselves.—The Unfavored, page 204

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Some interesting links

Here are some interesting links I ran across this week, as we race toward winter.

First off, a look at a new high-tech helmet for bicyclists. Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that I'm not a fan of helmets—and this summary paragraph gives one of the biggest reasons:

And before you strap on your connected helmet, keep in mind that in so doing you’re also helping absolve drivers of responsibility, because the more gimmicky safety gear they try to foist on us the easier it is for them to blame us if we don’t use it. They already say we “come out of nowhere” because they can’t be bothered to look for us, so just wait until they’re not required to see you at all unless you’ve got a personal locator beacon in your helmet. You might as well program your Matrix dot display to read, “I surrender.”

Designing better bike helmets is a worthwhile goal, and we’re finally seeing some much-needed advancements in materials and design. As for making them “smart,” connecting our helmets to our phones seems far less urgent than getting drivers off of theirs.

OK, it was two paragraphs. Next up, what about giving all those calculators to kids in grade school? I remember back in the 1980s when Chicago announced they would be issuing calculators to kids and I thought it was a bad idea. Anyway, Times Higher Education summarizes a new study, which isn't pretty.
New research suggests that students’ reliance on technology could be undermining some of their basic mental and critical thinking skills after many failed to spot major errors in simple mathematics calculations.

The study programmed an on-screen calculator to “lie” by changing the answers displayed on certain problems and tracked whether students explicitly reported suspicion, overrode the errors or rechecked their calculations.

Upshot: basically blind trust in the calculator : ( OK, it's time for a feel-good story! This, from NPR. He won a million dollar grant and started a nonprofit. Final question in the interview and his answer are priceless, too:
What will you be talking about at the New York City Food Tank Summit this weekend?

I'd like to ask the world to involve us, the farmers, in the decisions and in building the solutions for feeding the world.

Yep. Rather than letting big-Ag set the agenda, ask the farmers who do the actual work. But, of course, that might mean less profits for the 1 percent, so it won't happen. OK, color me cynical, but I really do believe in original sin.

And, over at Jesus Creed there's a good post on being the alternative to right or left:

So, how about you? Will you join me in trying to avoid these two extremes and walk that much more demanding middle path? (Warning: you tend to get shot at by both sides when you trod the middle path.) Will you try to be a broad-minded person who transcends the barbed-wired ideological silos, avoids the religious and political echo-chambers, and intentionally reads and listens to diverse people and perspectives; while at the same time remaining tethered to some system of morality higher and greater than your own fluctuating feelings and opinions? Can we strive to become more generous in spirit as we grow more passionate in our convictions?

I know this is asking a lot. But the future of Western civilization may hang in the balance (and certainly our sanity on social media!). Moreover, for people like me who want to represent the spiritual path Jesus paved for us, we absolutely must learn to walk this third way. As we do, people will begin to experience a Christianity worth considering as they encounter people who, like Jesus, are overflowing with both “grace and truth” (John 1:14). Who’s with me?

Michael Bird takes a look at white privilege in view of Paul's letters—he's an Aussie, so he doesn't know how to spell : )
In the end, the best thing white majority churches can do to divest themselves of their privileges is to implement the ecclesial corollaries that follow on from Paul’s remarks ruling out diastolē (“distinction”) between believers (Rom 3:22; 10:12) and prosōpolēmpsia (“favouritism”) before God and within the church (Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25; 1 Tim 5:21). Paul’s gospel calls us to imitate Christ in his divestment of privilege with a view to serving others rather than consciously or unconsciously merely absorbing and baptizing the resident prejudices that we live among. That is at least part of what it means to have the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5).
While Righting of America asks how much of Leviticus people really want when they selectively grab portions of it:
If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to advocate for stoning to death a man and women found in adultery?

If Leviticus is the defining text, then I must ask if anti-gay Christians are going to accept Leviticus 25, which says that every 50 years is a Jubilee to the Lord. This is a practical, actual, literal economic revival. All debts are forgiven. All prisoners are released. All land is given back to original owners. In Jubilee, the poor come to get their stuff back. The radical teaching of Jubilee insists that the practice of the economy shall be subordinated to the well-being of the neighborhood. Are evangelicals – many of whom are raising hell about food stamps and welfare – willing to take Leviticus 25 as seriously as they take Leviticus 18:22?

And he lists more. Personally, I hold to the traditional view of marriage, but also would love to see some redistribution of wealth, because, well, original sin. The wealthy will just keep on squeezing the poor until collapse happens (look at history)—or government forces them to give it over in the form of taxes. Or maybe we should adopt the Athenian way of doing things and have some of the wealthiest people fully supply a few aircraft carriers or battleships from their personal wealth! I suspect they would become less-hawkish in their views!

How do you get evangelicals to believe in human-caused (and therefore reversible) climate change? Well, this Evangelical PhD is doing a good job.

But I refuse to give it up, because I am a theological evangelical, one of those who can be simply defined as someone who takes the Bible seriously. This stands in stark contrast to today’s political evangelicals, whose statement of faith is written first by their politics and only a distant second by the Bible and who, if the two conflict, will prioritize their political ideology over theology.

I’m not a glutton for punishment and I don’t thrive on conflict. So why do I keep talking about climate change to people who are disengaged or doubtful? Because I believe that evangelicals who take the Bible seriously already care about climate change (although they might not realize it). Climate change will strike hard against the very people we’re told to care for and love, amplifying hunger and poverty, and increasing risks of resource scarcity that can exacerbate political instability, and even create or worsen refugee crises.

Amen and amen! Good preaching! And Warren Throckmorten digs up a book from the 1950s on demagoguery that seems only too appropriate to our time:
Allport’s question haunts me. I think he has the situation diagnosed but I don’t believe our psychology or our policies have kept up with the pace of social and technological change today. Panic and fear drove a sufficient number of presidential voters to elect a spectacularly ill-equipped reality television actor and businessman of questionable success. Panic and fear appear to be driving a defense of Trump’s abuse of power based on something other than reality. Evangelical placation of everything Trump does is almost certainly driven by panic and fear. Surely they are not walking by faith.
That sums it up, doesn't it? Fear. Problem is that fear sells.

Finally, what about those high-visibility conversions that fail? Stephen McAlpine says it's not them, but the celebrity-seeking Christian leaders (he calls them D-Listers) that are why people are repelled from Christianity. He quotes from 3 John 9, about Diotrophes, and concludes:

My hope over the next few years is not that a bunch of A-listers become Christian and influence the church. If they do, so be it, and may God get the glory from them that they so carefully crafted for themselves for so long. That’s a hard road for them, if we believe Jesus words about camels and eyes of needles.

My hope is that over the next few years the church will be brave enough to purge itself of self-glorying D-listers who, for the sake of a few small crumbs of influence and fame among those living in a Christian bubble, by their actions deny the very Lord who called them.

OK, one last post, on the supposed death of the printed book, by the CEO of academic publisher Bloomsbury (so he knows a bit about these things):
We know from conducting focus groups and our ongoing conversations with librarians, faculty, and students that print, particularly in the humanities, is still very much in demand. What we’ve heard repeatedly — and this seems to be very much in line with our peers — is that students enjoy the ease of search and discoverability of electronic resources but then often request print for more immersive reading. And maybe the greatest surprise here is that that is just as true of those matriculating now, the so-called born digital generation, as it is for those who preceded them. So there is clearly something inherently “human” about the print format that seems more nature than nurture. As someone who has always loved the printed book, I find that comforting.
Yep. that's what I'm sensing from all the people I talk to in academia. OK, I'm done for this week. Happy reading!