Friday, January 31, 2020

Without form...

Since the “before" picture deals with absence of order, it is easy to conclude that bārā’ pertains to order, as it often demonstrably does. Absence of order describes non-existence; to bārā’ something brings it into existence by giving it a role and a function in an ordered system. This is not the sort of origins account that we would expect in our modern world, but we are committed to reading the text as an ancient document. In this view, the result of bārā’ is order. The roles and functions are established by separating and naming (in the Bible as well as in the ancient Near East). These are the acts of creation. They are not materialistic in nature, and they are not something that science can explore either to affirm or to deny.—The Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 30

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Ad fontes

We cannot be content to have the English text be the ultimate focus of that kind of attention because we recognize that the English text is already someone’s fallible interpretation. All translation is interpretation, and we have no inspired translations. We have to analyze the Hebrew terms and their nuances as best we can.—The Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 26

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Good News: I don't have imposter syndrome

At least according to this person.

<idle musing>
But then why do I always feel like I’m faking it? Answer: because in academia we all are. OK, I’m being snide here… she does have a good point that it has been trivialized. But maybe, just maybe, I have a higher standard of what real control of a subject is than others, and so I see people who really do control the sources and feel inadequate. Especially if others look to me and think I control whatever the subject is. Maybe that’s not imposter syndrome; maybe it is just humility in the face of a mountain, knowing you are only on the first level above the base camp.

Or maybe it's just because I really don't have a clue about what I'm talking about.
</idle musing>

In case you can't access the link, here it is in full:

‘Impostor syndrome’ trivialises the serious issue of feeling phoney in HE Impostor phenomenon is real, but its ubiquitous, misnamed cousin invites accusations that it is a fad or fantasy, says Theresa Simpkin

January 29, 2020 By Theresa Simpkin

Hardly a day goes by without the popular press featuring some celebrity or sportsperson recounting their supposed experience of “impostor syndrome”. Meanwhile, on social media, posting after posting suggests that “everyone has it” – but you can cure yours with this three-point action plan.

Sadly, much of this material is both incorrect and belittling to those who really do suffer from the “impostor phenomenon” (IP) first defined in the mid-1970s by Georgia State University psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.

The phenomenon refers to the often crippling experience of believing oneself to be faking it despite a record of success. Sufferers live in a state of anxiety, waiting to be unmasked. But it is not a simple lack of self-confidence. It is a cyclical, socially learned response that can be deeply embedded. Forty years of research has identified an association with depression, maladaptive perfectionism, self-handicapping, externalisation of achievement, fear of failure and, paradoxically, fear of success.

But the profound has been turned into the perverse. Misnamed a “syndrome” and oversimplified, the experience of IP runs the risk of being dismissed as fad or fantasy.

IP appears to be particularly prevalent among students and academics. This is not surprising given the academy’s foundation on the principles of constant critique and scrutiny, and its historical association with upper-class white men. Those who perceive a lack of “fit” among their peers are more likely to feel like impostors – and gender, race and class are by no means the only points of “otherness” associated with IP. Indeed, a recent article in Times Higher Education suggested that academia actively sets up an “us and them” culture, in which talented but different scholars may be identified as “other” (“Who put the ‘cult’ in faculty?”, Opinion, 1 January).

While a good deal of attention has been paid to the prevalence of IP in women, much less has been devoted to its incidence in racial minorities. This amounts to an affliction over and above minority status stress (overt or implicit racism, discrimination and educational hegemony. Take Asian American university students). Research suggests that prevailing stereotypes associated with the high achievement of this group can generate a sense of “not being good enough” that goes beyond a sense of racial otherness.

This is a key point. Although universities typically have well established and robust suites of initiatives to diminish the incidence of racism on campus, racial minorities may well be more impacted by IP experiences. Worse, some of our most vulnerable students – and academics, too – may experience the confluence of both assaults on their well-being.

Universities are also implementing strategies to expand access to people of all backgrounds. However, research illustrates that experiencing otherness because of a lack of identification with the prevailing socio-economic identity of the university community, faculty or immediate classmates might exacerbate IP experiences. Moving in friendship (or professional) circles with people perceived to be from a higher socio-economic group can heighten the experience of IP. Moreover, individuals from poorer socio-economic backgrounds might also face accusations from their former peers that they are betraying their class.

What should universities do about it? For a start, they could identify IP as a real impediment – on a continuum from mild to intense – to achievement and well-being. Moreover, they should endeavour to distinguish the evidence from the claptrap around the pseudo-syndrome of popular myth – and the vacuous “just follow your star” responses to it that are peddled. Merely thinking happy thoughts is not going to resolve what can be a lifelong and debilitating experience that robs the individual of an enjoyment of success and potentially deprives academic communities of the labour of some of our brightest individuals.

Recent research suggests that seeking support from outside a comparison group (such as peers from different courses or disciplines) is likely to diminish impostor feelings. Hence, setting up cross-faculty or cross-disciplinary peer support structures might well assist students not only to seek support but also to feel less intimidated by those providing it (since there is less of a direct comparison of competence or worthiness between the supported and the supporter if they are from different disciplines).

With regard to academics, institutions should look to their recruitment, performance management and advancement structures. Stripping away overt “in-group” privilege (such as privileging members of old boy networks) might reduce the fuel of impostorism inherent in the academic community, as might expanding cross-disciplinary social support.

Fundamentally, however, the most effective means of eliminating that fuel is to have individuals examine the internal narratives that developed the impostor response in the first place. Are there any personal experiences underlying their belief that they are not worthy of their success, position or recognition? Examples might be parental criticism, sibling rivalry and hurtful past failures – and all of them can be overcome with the right support.

If we are to have supportive inclusion practices, it is incumbent on higher education institutions to examine the impostor experience with more evidence-based enquiry and more proactive responses.

Theresa Simpkin is associate professor (teaching focused) and director of the senior leader degree apprenticeship on the executive MBA programme at Nottingham Trent University. She is founder of the Braver Stronger Smarter initiative.

What do you mean by that?

We cannot start by asking of the Bible our scientific questions. The Bible is not revealing science, and the biblical authors and audience would be neither aware of nor concerned with our scientific way of thinking. Our questions would not resonate in their minds, and neither would they even have meaning to them. Likewise, we cannot start by seeing how or where the Bible corresponds to scientific thinking that we have today if we have not yet understood the text in its original context. We need to penetrate the ancient text and the ancient world to understand their insider communication and their cognitive environment.—The Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 25

<idle musing>
I think John starts out all his books this way, but it needs to be repeated. Our scientifically based questions would make absolutely no sense to people in the ancient world. And, more often than not, their questions make no sense to us without knowing their culture, what John calls their cognitive environment.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

There is a limit

If we read modern ideas into the text, we skirt the authority of the text and in effect compromise it, arrogating authority to ourselves and our ideas. This is especially true when we interpret the text as if it is making reference to modern science, of which the author and audience had no knowledge. The text cannot mean what it never meant. What the text says may converge with modern science, but the text does not make authoritative claims pertaining to modern science (e.g., some statements may coincide with Big Bang cosmology, but the text does not authoritatively establish Big Bang cosmology). What the author meant and what the audience understood place restrictions on what information has authority. The only way we can move with certainty beyond that which was intended by the Old Testament author is if another authoritative voice (e.g., a New Testament author) gives us that extension of meaning.—The Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 19

<idle musing>
OK, color me heretical here. I think that is too restrictive a hermeneutic. I agree that scripture doesn't make authoritative statements about science. But, I believe God can personalize a passage of scripture for an individual, and possibly even a group—as long as it is in doctrinal agreement with the remainder of scripture. Maybe it's my Wesleyan/Charismatic background speaking here versus the Reformed, more cerebral background of the authors, but the Holy Spirit has used passages of scripture in my life to convict and direct me in ways that definitely go beyond what was intended by the OT author. Way beyond!
</idle musing>

Monday, January 27, 2020

This should be obvious, but

the Bible is not a scientific textbook. That is, God’s intention is not to teach science or to reveal science. He does reveal his work in the world, but he doesn’t reveal how the world works.—The Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 17 (emphasis original)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A day late

Normally I post this on Saturday, but better late than never, I guess. It also allows me to include a post or two from yesterday. Let's start with a Library Comic. If you aren't familiar with them, they are the replacement for Unshelved, which is now only posting reruns. I only wish I could access JSTOR through my local library!

Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog has moved. Unfortunately, his RSS feed doesn't seem to be working yet. But, his post on Christianity Tomorrow is worth reading. Here's an excerpt:

The problem, for far too many, Left and Right, is Locke’s trap or statism. It is not speaking prophetically to claim the mantle of the prophet only when it is a Left-leaner criticizing the GOP, nor is it prophetic if a Right-leaner criticizes the Democrats. That’s falling into Locke’s trap. It is little more than partisan criticism baptized by Christian language.
Yep. Don't get caught in equating the U.S. with the kingdom of heaven!

The Old Curmudgeon takes a look at truth in a posttruth age:

We're used to the idea of propaganda aimed at getting us to believe something in particular, that it is designed for linear goals-- we will get people to believe that a balanced breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so that they'll buy more cereal. By convincing people that X is true, we can get them to do Y. Our idea of good, traditional propaganda is that it is focused and on message. Repeat your main talking point. Chip away. (After a couple of decades of hearing it repeated, everyone will believe that US schools are failing.)

But in the information age, the era of computerized super-communication, we have Propaganda 2.0. We don't need you to believe X; we just want you to believe that you can't believe anything. We don't need to substitute our "truth" for the actual truth; we just have to convince you that the truth is unknowable, possibly non-existent. You have no hope of navigating this world on your own. Just give all your obedience to a strong boss; take all your navigation from Beloved Leader.

Does he contradict himself? Well, it may seem that way, but the truth is complicated and unknowable, so why should the truth he peddles feel any different. Does his truth seem to be contradicted by actual reality? That's only because you can't trust your own perception of reality.

Best summary of what's going on that I have seen yet. Read the rest for how to combat it.

How about a bit of satire (it is satire, isn't it?)? First, the worship wars:

EAU CLAIRE, WI – A church musician is under investigation for playing a song the congregation already knew. “I had no idea so many people had heard this song before,” said Brad Font, worship pastor at Living Waters Fellowship. “I sincerely regret the error.”

Font realized his mistake as soon as he began singing. “I heard a strange noise coming from the crowd. I squinted to see under the stage lights and discovered that more than half of the congregation was singing along,” he said.

Sadly, it seems only too true. But what if a university ran a polar expedition?
We are terribly honored to mark another year under the leadership of Captain Braithwaite, a 60-year-old man who served in Borneo and had never seen snow before this voyage. Many thanks as well to Mr. Arnold Barrington, who has shared many helpful “tidbits” learned during his forty years north of the Arctic Circle. We’ve never had a finer deck swab!
And it degenerates from there. Enough satire; life is deadly enough without it, as this article shows:
Researchers discover that neonicotinoid seed treatments are driving a dramatic increase in insecticide toxicity in U.S. agricultural landscapes, despite evidence that these treatments have little to no benefit in many crops.
But, hey, it's lining the pockets of the investors and driving the desire to find replacement pollinators in the form of drones, so what's the big deal? Well, according to recent research, we might be suffering from species loneliness:
species loneliness de­notes the way human beings have cut ourselves off from the nonhuman species inhabiting our world. In our desire for dominance and self-gratification we have put ourselves in solitary confinement, and in the worst cases become the tormenter of all things nonhuman. We have deprived ourselves of love relationships with nonhumans.

It is making us sick. We were never meant to operate as an autonomous and independent species. We desperately need the full cooperation of other species to survive, from large mammals that maintain a crucial balance within ecosystems to microbial communities in our own guts. As a result of our non-cooperation, interspecies disconnection is breaking down the systems humans depend on. This disconnection is deeper than the interdependence of biological systems; it is also theological.

Read it. It's not a tree-hugger piece, although I do find the final paragraph, quoting from a gnostic gospel to endorse a very nongnostic idea quite interesting. That sounds like something Roger Olson would think of, but instead, he's running nice series on theology. Why?
Why is theology necessary? Simply put—because the Bible is not always as clear as we wish it were.
Well put. Be sure to check out all his posts, especially this one on folk religion. Oh, back to the worship wars for a second. On Michael Bird's blog, two people posted on the old hymns. Read it! And what do same-sex leadership and same-sex marriage have in common? Turns out, a lot, at least according to Wade Burleson. He give five similarities, ending with this:
It's always more comfortable to be in control and to rule over others than it is to follow the Spirit and let Him lead. God's design is for men and women to marry and for gifted men and women to lead. To change behaviors, those comfortable living in same-sex union, as well as those comfortable living in same-sex leadership, must subdue personal desires to God's design.
Indeed! OK, time to tread lightly. First, why Trump is bad for prolife (HT: Jim E.). Read it. Second, Ron Sider asks what would happen if pro- and anti-Trump Christians would pray together.
It’s obvious that we are not doing that. Regularly, we have reports of Christian families intensely and painfully divided over politics. “Not-Trump!” and “Yes-Trump!” Christians too often say nasty things about each other. It seems very difficult (although we should keep trying) to do what I said in my last blog--namely gather discussion groups together with substantial numbers of Democrats, Republicans and Independents and listen respectfully and reflect together on the 2020 elections.

But what if we just came together to pray? What if all we did together was to pray, asking God to guide all Christians (and all American citizens) as they ponder how to vote this year?

Go for it! Revivals break out when people pray. And that's really what real Christians should really desire, isn't it? (Looking back at Scot's post on statism.)

Don't worry, I'm winding down here. Two last posts, the first on the cheapness of life if you are a bicyclist. Killed two, injured others in a clear case of inattentive driving. Gets off with a small fine. Now, I'm not into retributive justice, but this does send a clear message:

“My club isn’t like it was before,” Delacruz-Tuason said. “A lot of our club members don’t ride on the road anymore. We are trying to continue with our lives, but it’s hard. … It’s difficult to help others when I am still trying to keep it together for myself and my family.”

Moments like this are every cyclist’s worst nightmare, but are becoming increasingly commonplace, especially in Florida. Bicycling fatalities are higher in the Sunshine State than any other state, with the Orlando Sentinel calling it “a killing field for cyclists.” But despite that, there aren’t enough laws on the books to protect riders’ rights, said Miami attorney Eli Stiers who represents six of the victims.

Yep. Message: Cars rule, everybody else is a target (including motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians). I ride nearly two thousand miles a year (down from when I was bike commuting, but still a good number of miles), and Debbie and I walk about five miles a day. Since moving to Red Wing a little over two years ago, while walking we have nearly been hit by drivers three times. In each case, we clearly had the right of way. They just didn't see us because they weren't expecting to see a pedestrian. Bicycling here seems safer. I haven't had any close calls yet. But I'm always expecting them and I wear a high visibility yellow jersey and have a flashing taillight that is visible 1/2 mile away in daylight.

But, I'm not going to end on that sad note. Instead, read this one, on the state of the publishing industry. A very well-written essay worth pondering.

For the first time since 2011, when Borders shut down, or 2007, when Amazon launched the Kindle, or maybe 1455, when Johannes Gutenberg went bankrupt immediately upon printing his game-changing best seller The Bible, the news about book publishing has seemed less than dire.
Of course, there's far more to the essay than that, keep reading.

Until next weekend, enjoy! Meanwhile, I'm going to order my garden seeds. This year, the orders to go Fedco, Johnny's, and Baker Creek. What about you?

Update: I forgot to post it last week, and now I forgot this week, too. In sad news, Christopher Tolkien died at age 95. He really did a service to us all by editing his dad's notes and publishing them in twelve volumes, as well as the Silmarillion. Read the article to get an idea of how important his work is to his father's legacy.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Why comparative studies?

Comparative studies help us to understand more fully the form of the biblical authors’ employed genres and the nature of their rhetorical devices so that we do not mistake these elements for something that they never were. Such an exercise does not compromise the authority of Scripture but ascribes authority to that which the communicator was actually communicating. We also need comparative studies in order to recognize the aspects of the communicators’ cognitive environment that are foreign to us and to read the text in light of their world and worldview.—The Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 17

<idle musing>
Seems obvious, doesn't it? But it never hurts to remind people—especially in this day of using Scripture as a magic spell (not that doing so is a new phenomenon, we've uncovered amulets with Scripture on them in just about every time period).
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 23, 2020

An new book

Well, maybe not so new in the sense of just published, but new in the sense that I'm just getting around to reading it. John Walton has been doing a series for IVP Academic on the "Lost Worlds" of the Old Testament, especially the Torah/Pentateuch. I read the first one quite a few years back and last year decided I'd read the rest of them. So, let's start near the beginning with Adam and Eve:
The fact that some wield science as a weapon against faith is no reason to think that science or scientists are the problem. The philosophy of naturalism is the problem. After all, the same people who use science as a weapon would be just as inclined to use the Bible as a weapon against those who take it as the Word of God. Our response should be simply to try to explain the Bible better and to make it clear to the abusers how they are viewing it wrongly. We can do the same with science.—The Lost World of Adam and Eve, p. 13
<idle musing>
We'll see how this works out. In his book on Genesis 1, he did a good job (both the IVP one and the Eisenbrauns one, but in his book on inerrancy (with Brent Sandy), it seemed he was working himself into contortions to save a bad doctrine. I have a lot of respect for John; he definitely knows his stuff and knows how to communicate it well, so I'm hopeful. Join me as we wander through this lost world.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

And it all relates

Wyatt draws connections between Og and the Greek character of Ogygos, mythical founder of Thebes and survivor of a global ood (Eusebius, Praeparatio evangelica 10; Pausanius, Description of Greece 9.5.1). Ogygos is also the namesake of the island of Ogygia, which Homer describes as the “ὀμφαλός . . . θαλάσσης,” “navel of the sea” (Odyssey 1.50). Ὠκεανός (Ocean) and Ὤγυγος (Ogygos) are formed on the same root. For the Greeks, Ocean was a boundless sea that wrapped like a river around the world (Hesiod, Works and Days 168–71; Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 227; Stasinos of Cyprus, Cypria 8). If one can draw a connection from Ocean to Ogygos to Og, Og of Bashan bears some resemblance to Yamm.

On the other hand, the image of Ocean is identified with an ageing Dionysus who descends to the underworld. Ocean as the transformation of Dionysus appears on two triumphal arches erected in Rome by Septimius Severus, whose wife Julia Domna was a Syrian priestess. Ocean appears as the transformation of Bacchus on a dish from the Roman Cunetio Hoard (late second century CE) and on a frieze on the temple of Bacchus at Baalbek. Dionysus is himself associated with the Green Man through his patronage of agriculture, his ability to make plants grow where he sets foot, and the ability of his followers, according to Euripides, to draw water out of the ground by striking it. So one might also propose a resemblance between Og and Khidr or Baal.

The term “Bashan” itself can be equated with the Ugaritic bṯn (cf. Akk. bašmu, Aram. ptn, Arab. bathan; KB3, 1.165), which is used to describe Yamm/Leviathan in KTU 1.5 i.2.16 Bashan appears several times in Psalm 68, which twice calls God “Rider of the Clouds” (68:7, 33), identical with rkb ʿrpt, an Ugaritic title of Baal used repeatedly in the Yamm stories (e.g., KTU 1.3 iv 4, 7). In Ps 68:16[15], Bashan is called the Mountain of God and mentioned right after Zalmon, which Ptolemy identified as Jebel Druze (Geography 5.14.12). This means that in Ps 68:17[16], it is Bashan that “God desired for his abode, where the Lord will reside forever.” Then in 68:23[22], Bashan is mentioned in parallel with Yamm. Perhaps God lives on Mount Bashan, then, in 68:15[16].19 John Day believes this use of geographical Bashan discounts translating Mount Bashan as “Serpent Mountain,” noting that bṯn already enters Hebrew as פתנ (e.g., Ps 91:13, in parallel with תנין; cf. Arabic baṯanun). But common sources can lead to two ulterior forms in a second language, either if the Hebrew bet and pe both correspond to the Ugaritic b because this is a composite set with overlapping segments or if Bashan and peten are a doublet, borrowed at different times from what is historically the same item in the single source language (cf. castle and chateau or gentle and genteel). The word Bashan need not be Hebrew in any case. Place-names are famously tenacious. Moreover, Deut 33:22, which says that Dan springs forth from Bashan, uses the oddly sea-serpentesque verb—hardly what one expects of the “whelp of a lion,” while Gen 49:17 actually calls Dan a serpent (both נחש and שפיפן). Del Olmo Lete pushes things too far in arguing that Bashan was the Canaanite “hell.” But a final link between Ugarit and Baal in particular and the Bashan region is the probable presence of Lake Hula as ṯmq in KTU 1.10 ii 6–12, a place “abounding in bulls” where Baal hunts (but not the ṯmk in KTU 1.22 i 17).—Robert Miller, Baal, St. George, and Khidr, pp. 25–27.

<idle musing>
Indeed! The whole book is like this. I won't extract anymore from it, but if you like this kind of thing (I do!), be sure to read it.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 20, 2020

In summary

At the most basic level, whether we ask these kinds of questions of our congregations or of our individual selves, the New Testament christological hymns have the potential to challenge contemporary Christians to consider whether our view of Jesus is expansive enough. The remarkable portrait of reality painted by the New Testament christological hymns is that of an imaginal world—a real world but one that cannot yet be perceived in the visible space around us—in which Jesus is Lord of all, the unique agent of God’s work of redemption inclusive of Jews and Gentiles, inclusive of all people. If the church was born in the matrix of worship, and worship was centered on the crucified, risen, and exalted Jesus to the glory of God, then Christian vitality depends on growing and maturing in relationship with these origins. The New Testament christological hymns bring us with laser focus to the birth and infancy of the early church as it wrestled with its culture, its traditions, and its message of good news for all people. Our deep reflection and appropriation of the meaning of the New Testament christological hymns today could be a catalyst to a renewal and rebirth that is needed in the present moment as much as it ever has been.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, pp. 234–35

<idle musing>
And so ends this book. I hope you enjoyed it, even though it was a bit dragged out. My take on the book, if you are interested, is that it's not what I thought it would be. And that's a good thing. I was looking for it to be a bit more forceful, presenting questionable evidence to claim great things about christological hymns in the NT. It doesn't. It has more modest, attainable goals. It claims that there is enough evidence that there are hymn-like sections in the NT that might be preexisting hymns, or they might have been composed for the book itself. They might give us insight into early Christian worship.

So, it is a better book than I anticipated it being, although not as thrilling. Maybe that's why it took me longer to get through it?

New book, starting tomorrow. We've been in the NT for a while, so let's head to the OT for a bit, but first we'll sidetrack for a couple of days into the wild and woolly world of the ANE with Robert Miller's latest book, Baal, St. George, and Khidr, a fun little book, but very difficult to extract stuff from; you really need to check it out of your local library (OK, probably have to ILL it) and read.
</idle musing>

Saturday, January 18, 2020

What I read this week

or, around the web in a few links.

Why keep excavating when we have so much buried in our museums already? That's the question that Hyperallergic raises, bringing up the issue of the recent Museum of the Bible fiasco of someone (probably Obbink) selling papyri that weren't his to them. The article reasons that it is because universities reward the wrong behavior. Might well be; read it yourself to decide.

Meanwhile, the issue of the stolen papyri gets even murkier, as someone looks at the metadata (the information buried inside a file that gives details of creation, etc.) of a PDF flyer of the Sappho papyrus from a few years back. Seems the dates inside the file don't agree with the stated timeline. Can you say "stolen" again?

But, let's back up to the issue of universities rewarding wrong behavior. A Times Higher Ed article claims we should stop treating universities like businesses (I agree), and instead treat them like (in good British) Sporting Clubs. Huh? Yep. Think about it:

So what does the sports club analogy entail for university management? First, small and medium-sized clubs derive their support from their local communities. If they are consistently successful, such as the mega football clubs of Europe, their brands expand worldwide. Likewise, for universities, the first rule must be to serve their local populations, both in terms of student recruitment and research prioritisation. If they become consistently successful in regional, state, provincial or national terms, it becomes appropriate to expand the brand and seek to recruit students from a wider area. Efforts to lure students to a university they have never heard of are likely to be largely wasted.

After the players, the best-known people at sporting clubs are the coaches. These people set the strategy, hire the staff and provide the motivation. For me, a key strategy is to organise universities such that the equivalent of coaches – heads of departments or faculties – have the time and skills to fashion their “players” into a loyal and complementary team.

Well, worth thinking about anyway. And while we are in academia, Roger Olson asks if science has buried God. He says no, and cites a well-known retired Oxford professor of mathematics and philosophy of science, John Lennox. Do read it.

Somewhat related, N.T. Wright asks about knowledge: "In many spheres, the question not just of what we know but of how we know is urgent and vital. I have tried to develop the notion of love as the ultimate form of knowledge and to explore its wider relevance." Good stuff; worth the relatively long read.

Shifting gears a bit, apparently when women take a leave of absence after giving birth, the wealthier ones (read Ivy League grads) tend to extend that stay—by years! A book was written about it and it's been reviewed at the link. The reviewer takes a few shots at the philosophical point of view of the authors. . .read the review for more info.

What about the idea of a "dry January"? Never heard of it? Neither had I, but apparently it's a real thing. You don't drink alcoholic beverages the entire month of January. The Anxious Bench takes a look at it:

Current reports champion this experiment in abstinence without a whiff of irony. For me it rankles a little that Dry January gets the nod from fashionable press and people who might otherwise contemn the long history of temperance and like movements in the United States before. Ken Burns gave us an interesting documentary about Prohibition and scholars do not necessarily cling to the caricatures. But the efforts of many earlier Americans, many of them with Protestant motivation and quite a few of them female, to convince fellow citizens that all would prosper if they drank less, can be cast as dour, ham-fisted, tyrannical, ill-advised, ludicrous, and destined to fail, even if well-intentioned.
Dry January looks individualistic and narrow in contrast. It’s a DIY temperance movement, one chosen, maintained, and interpreted by yourself. If Dry January has become popular because it relies on achievable goals and personal choice—you opt out of liquor rather than being shoved by law or peer pressure—its benefits are correspondingly limited. A month off of alcohol might make you feel better, make you abler to reach personal best as you see it, but barely tries to imagine how your private choices in consumption and expenditure might bear on others.

Promoters of temporary temperance come so close to old language without noting the resemblance. NPR’s Allison Aubrey insists, “you can cheers, you can toast with some seltzer water. You don’t have to have alcohol in the glass to feel a sense of celebration.” As many a tee-totaler across the centuries might have told you. Dry January aims to help people become more conscious about their drinking and help them drink less—goals undergirded by the assumption that both of these are objective goods. The new-ish label “sober curious” rebrands abstention as self-fashioning, made even more attractive by keeping it noncommittal, admirably tolerant and open. (emphasis original)

OK, while you are digesting that, think about the word "Puritan." What do you think of? Wrong! John Turner gives us the real background on the word.

And what about women preachers? Wade Burleson takes a quick run through the history of Wheaton, Moody Bible Institute, and Baptists in the late 1800s. You'll be surprised at what he found. Well, maybe not surprised, but I'll bet you didn't know a good bit of it. (You did read it, didn't you?)

What happens when a preacher takes a month-long vacation and reads through the Torah/Pentateuch? Stephen McAlpine writes about it. Not what you would expect, speaking of the death of Aaron's sons, and worship in the OT in general:

Whoops. Seems like God is pretty strict about this sort of stuff. There’s a lot of worry when it comes to the worship of the God of Israel. We start to realise that He sets the boundaries for how He is to be approached. The common reframe in this worship package set up is that “Moses did all that the LORD had commanded.” It’s said again and again and again. There’s no occasion where God asks:

“Well Moses, what do you think? How should the people approach me? After all it’s a much more modern age than when you were back in Egypt.”

There’s no leeway. No wiggle room. No ifs. No buts. There’s a lot of worry in worship when you are permitted to worship the true and living God, and have Him dwell in your midst like Israel did. Get it right? Blessing! Get it wrong? Toast!

Read his conclusion. It's breathtaking in it's assurance. It takes the pressure off the necessity of emotional highs that so much worship hype seems to require. And while you are on his blog, read this one, too, on church. Good stuff.

OK. Let's jump into the current mess of evangelicalism. Ron Sider explains why he still uses the term. As a friend of mine said, "When we have to go to that length to define what this term OUGHT to mean, the jig is up. Game over. Move on." Sadly, I have to agree with him. But, the Christianity Today editorial is still making waves: Richard Mouw, president emeritus of Fuller Seminary, weighed in:

When Trump’s evangelical supporters tell us that in presidential elections we are not voting for candidates for sainthood, I agree. I have been voting in elections for more than a half-century now, and I have frequently cast my ballot for folks whose personal lives fall far short of sainthood. I have never insisted that candidates for public office get high scores in “What would Jesus do?” tests. But Christians do have a responsibility to promote the cause of moral leadership in public life. And I do want Christian leaders to be guided in their decisions by keeping the “What would Nathan do?” question clearly in mind. The writer of the Christianity Today editorial has now done just that in the case of President Trump. I am grateful for the prophetic message.
Missio Alliance asks if the church is too political. They say no, just political in the wrong way. Read it. And this one on what Johnny Cash's version of the gospel can teach us. And while you are reading along those lines, Mark Galli, the just retired CT editor who wrote that editoral, asks "What if":
What if conservative Christians of any stripe, Catholic or Protestant, tried to conserve the teachings of their faith by living them–those words about loving the enemy, turning the other cheek, serving the poor, giving up one’s life for the neighbor?

What if, instead of waving the battle flag of success and victory, they lifted high the cross of Christ as the paradigm of their faith?
What if conservative Christians were known less for their politics and more for their mercy, so that when they spoke about the saving work of Jesus Christ, that message would not be mocked but, by God’s grace, believed?

What if conservative Christians strove to conserve—“kept in a safe or sound state”—the great teachings of our Lord, in both word and deed?


And what is a weekly roundup without something about Amazon? I could post about their recent dust-up with Fed Ex that they settled, but that's too mundane. They just used that as a pressure technique to get a better discount is my guess. Old trick. No, I'm more concerned about their recent moves into publishing. Where is the antitrust department? They broke up the movie studios monopoly hold on theaters for less than what AZ is doing with their Cloud Services, delivery services, third-party selling monopoly, etc!

On that note, buy local. Jeff Bezos and his $11 billion dollar nontaxed profit won't miss a few bucks from you. But if enough of us do it, he might...and your local business person will stay open, which means they, at least, will be helping you with the taxes. Bezos won't ever do that willingly, which is why I tend to lean socialist—you will never get a rich person to willingly part with their ill-gotten gains. No, not even a christian one. I heard a rich christian business man give a chapel message once where he accused the government of being socialist because it had the nerve to tax him! Seems his Bible was missing a few texts. OK, enough said. Have a great week!

Friday, January 17, 2020

The ways of Caesar or the way of the cross?

Another thread is the employment of concepts and imagery that were also at home in the praises offered to the Roman emperor in association with the Roman imperial ideology. The portrayal of Christ as the one before whom every knee will bow (Philippians), as the one who has the supremacy in all things (Colossians), and as the one who has divine origins, who enlightens humanity with his presence, and who is a gracious benefactor (John) can arguably be seen as encroaching on the kinds of accolades and honors offered to the emperor. In addition, the explicit mention of the cross (in Philippians and Colossians) and the notion of the rejection of Jesus by the world (John) prevent worshipers of Christ from ignoring the historical fact of the ways in which the powers of the world refused to recognize Christ. The implications are both that Christ is greater than Caesar and that those who follow Christ should not be surprised to find themselves at odds with the prevailing forces in their day.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 221

<idle musing>
And I would add, if you find that isn't true, you had better examine your theology. Perhaps (probably is more likely) you have compromised the cross and embraced the world instead.

Let those who have ears. . .
</idle musing>

My hope is built

When I was younger, I was a part of a hard dispensationalist church. I wasn't dispensationalist myself, but that's where God had me. Anyway, we used to have a little ditty about dispensationalist theology, set to the tune of My Hope Is Built. Here's how it went:
My hope is built
on nothing less
than Scofield's notes
and Moody Press
A variation on that was to substitute "Zondervan" for Scofield's notes. Well, the other day I was thinking about the hard connection between conservative evangelicals (really fundamentalists, but that's another story) and the current president. Seems nothing can shake their belief in him. So, I thought of this little ditty, also to the tune of My Hope Is Built:
My hope is built
on nothing less
than Donald Trump
as President
I think that pretty much sums up their theology, sadly.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Think about it

We can consider what stories are shaping our own view of the world and of our place in it. We can consider whether we are valuing the traditions we have inherited while at the same time being mindful of the cultures in which we live. We can ask ourselves whether we are appropriately critical of values or norms of our culture that we may take for granted but that Jesus expressly opposed through his teaching or example. We can consider the extent to which we live our lives as citizens of the new era inaugurated by Jesus and as people whose lives are marked by the humility of the cross and the hope of resurrection.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 234

Monday, January 13, 2020

And how do we rank?

[A] deeper understanding of these texts in their cultural contexts can facilitate our asking new questions about our own practices. From the observations above about what the hymns tell us about early Christian worship, we can pose and initial set of basic questions about the extent to which contemporary hymnody or liturgical song or worship music reflects the features of the earliest Christian hymns. These questions might be seen as taking inventory of the state of our worship without necessarily passing any judgment on the findings. For example, how does today’s worship through song demonstrate a connection to inherited tradition? In what ways does it engage with current cultures? How does it resist competing ideologies that embody values contrary to the way of Jesus? Does it acknowledge and celebrate the reality of the new era inaugurated by Jesus? To what extent are the cross, resurrection, and exaltation features of contemporary worship songs? The spirit of these questions is not evaluative or judgmental. Rather, these are descriptive questions that ask us to think about the ways in which our worship currently reflects these dynamics.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 233

<idle musing>
And how does most contemporary music rate on this scale? Pretty much a zero, isn't it? Sad.
</idle musing>

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Once more, round the web

Are you a teacher and had a bad week? I remember those—especially when I was teaching high school! Take a look at this post for some encouragement. He's right : )

Speaking of school, this article is spot on. Here's the opening gambit, and it should make you read the whole article:

The most damaging thing you learned in school wasn't something you learned in any specific class. It was learning to get good grades.

When I was in college, a particularly earnest philosophy grad student once told me that he never cared what grade he got in a class, only what he learned in it. This stuck in my mind because it was the only time I ever heard anyone say such a thing.

He's right. By the way, the title of the article is "The Lesson to Unlearn." And speaking of unlearning, maybe libraries need to unlearn charging fines. Take a look at this article. Summary: Less fines equals more use. Kind of like grace versus law : )

Shifting gears a bit, worried about fragmentation of society? Seems like everyone is today. I've run across a few articles this week along those lines. Here is this:

So, how should kingdom people in America respond to this social fragmentation. First, if any aspect of your essential well-being is anchored in the well-being of America, or any other nation, I’m afraid you’re going to be anxious, frustrated and disappointed. A wiser course of action would be to divest yourself of all hope in America and all other nations of the world, and instead anchor your well-being in the only King and Kingdom that you have reason to believe will last forever.
And Jim E. sent me this one this morning:
We Americans are locked in political combat and focused on President Trump, but there is a cancer gnawing at the nation that predates Trump and is larger than him. Suicides are at their highest rate since World War II; one child in seven is living with a parent suffering from substance abuse; a baby is born every 15 minutes after prenatal exposure to opioids; America is slipping as a great power.

We have deep structural problems that have been a half century in the making, under both political parties, and that are often transmitted from generation to generation. Only in America has life expectancy now fallen three years in a row, for the first time in a century, because of “deaths of despair.”

“The meaningfulness of the working-class life seems to have evaporated,” Angus Deaton, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, told us. “The economy just seems to have stopped delivering for these people.” Deaton and the economist Anne Case, who is also his wife, coined the term “deaths of despair” to describe the surge of mortality from alcohol, drugs and suicide.

And it goes on. Good stuff; do read it.

Here's an interesting repost from over 100 years ago. Small snippet of prophetic stuff:

Many of us believe that our nation has a peculiar mission to restore peace. Nothing is so likely to tamper with our judicial qualities, to undermine the confidence of other nations in our sincere friendship, and thus to frustrate that mission of peace, as the growth of these war interests. They will create an American “war party.” When the foreign market fails, they will turn to the home market, and we shall feel their influence in the demand for American militarism.
Anybody care to deny that's what's going on? I didn't think so—especially since 9/11/2001.

In even less encouraging news, the United Methodist Church has decided to acknowledge that they are anything but united (and haven't been since probably the mid-1970s). This article is probably the best summary of the situation I've read. Most other ones either don't grasp the depth and length of the problem, or ignore it to score culture war points. Sad; it was my denomination growing up and well into my late 30s.

How about some theology? Roger Olson takes on Greg Boyd and others who deny substitutionary atonement. I agree with Roger; you can't have full reconciliation without substitutionary atonement, but not the popularly defined version of penal substitution! A good book to read is Scot McKnight's A Community Called Atonement. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Concerned about the Middle East? Take a look at a guest post on Ron Sider's blog. Amen and amen.

Two final posts here. One on a professor taking a stand on transgender studies. The other, it appears that in France after generations of looking the other way about underage sexual exploitation, the women are speaking up. A well-known French author is being held accountable and the laws are being enforced and tightened. Interesting world we live in, isn't it?

Friday, January 10, 2020

What is worship?

We have worked from an understanding that worship is more than just spoken words or ritual actions or inner thoughts and beliefs. Worship certainly can include those things, but it also cannot be reduced to any one of them. Instead, worship is, in its broadest scope, an intentional practice of affirming, proclaiming, and confessing an allegiance to God that, among other things, enables the worshiper to see himself or herself as part of a reality that is larger than the visible reality on offer within the world in which the worshiper lives. Worship, in this sense, would include words, actions, and rituals, together with an overall pattern of values and priorities that constitute the orientation of one’s life. Within this broad way of thinking about worship, one can worship God through song, prayer, sacrament, and meditation in a congregational or other religious setting (1 Cor 14:26; Col 3:16). But one can also worship God through the performance of one’s day—to—day responsibilities. Even the most mundane of activities can be considered worship of God when acted out with an awareness that it is being done “in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17; cf. Rom 12:1).—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 232

Thursday, January 09, 2020

The continuing tradition

One third-century hymn, “Phos Hilaron [Jesus Christ the cheerful light],” is still in use today. The developments in these later hymns are noted by McGuckin [Path of Christianity], who explains that those “tendencies toward personal mystical union evoked in the second-century materials” were later set aside in favor of more dogmatic and instructive hymnody in the post—Nicene era.” But he also notes that this dimension of early Christian worship was not entirely lost: “This more intimate psychic aspect of hymnic writing passed on into the ascetical literature of the Eastern church."—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 231

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

So what does it prove?

First the christological hymns as a whole portray Christ as the exalted Lord who is the ultimate victor over all powers. This victor motif was important to vindicate Christ in light of his shameful death on the cross. It was also important in drawing out the implications of Christ’s present status for the daily practical realities of his followers. Christ’s exalted status offered hope to believers in the midst of the Roman World in which Christ was not yet obviously reigning as Lord.

Second, as a result of this exalted status above all powers, Christ is understood to be worthy of worship alongside God. This participation in receiving worship was implicit in some hymns but explicit in others. These two themes cohere with Ralph Martin’s summary statement: “If there is one motif that pervades the New Testament hymns, it is this ringing assurance that Christ is victor over all man’s enemies, and is rightly worshipped as the Image of the God who is over all.” Bauckham expresses something similar when he writes, “The earliest hymns celebrated the saving death and heavenly exaltation of Jesus as the one who now shares the divine throne and, as God’s plenipotentiary, receives the homage of all creation.” The exalted status of Jesus is closely connected with the idea that he is worthy of divine worship.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 225

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The purpose

Finally, with their high concentration of poetic features or elevated stylistic features, their focus on divine realities associated with God’s plan for humanity through Christ, together with their use of imagery and themes that resonated with their cultural contexts, it seems that the early christological hymns were far more than just a codification of doctrine or a logical statement of Christian beliefs. Rather, as hymns these passages also had an affective dimension and an allusive quality that had the potential to engage the emotions as well as the mind. Accordingly, early Christian worship offered imagery and language that had an evocative power capable of engaging the emotions of its participants and enabling them to see themselves as part of an imaginal world in which all powers are subject to the exalted Jesus. In some instances early Christian hymns explicitly brought into view a verbal picture of the exalted Jesus. In all cases, through language associated with praise of the divine, they invited their listeners as worshipers into an experience of the realities about which they spoke.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 224

Saturday, January 04, 2020

around the web

Welcome to the first 2020 look around the web from my viewpoint. Perhaps you'll find something of interest, perhaps not. But at least enjoy the ride...

You aren't paranoid; you really are being followed! And not only that, frequently you are paying for that questionable privilege. This article has all the juicy details. By the way, I started using Jumbo and was surprised by how many things I had failed to set on my privacy settings. I'm usually pretty strict, but it caught some I didn't even know existed. Highly recommended.

Meanwhile, the reaction to the Christianity Today editorial has been strong from the pro-Trump team. Michael Bird has some good insights; here's a small snippet:

Now I understand how pro-Trumpers can say, “Hey, he’s no Mother Theresa, but he’s effective, he’s appointed conservatives to SCOTUS, and he’s our bodyguard protecting us against the pathologically Christian hating types in the Democratic party.” I get it, I don’t agree, but I get it. But for Grudem to say in effect that Good Policies = Good Man is morally blindsided and sets a dangerous precedent.

I’ve never liked liberal theology because it produces a God without wrath who brings men and women without sin to a kingdom without judgment thanks to the ministrations of a Christ without a cross [that’s from Niebuhr]. Yet I fear Grudem’s Trumpology because it presents a God with partisan mercy, who expects men and women to ignore their moral compasses, to call the wicked good and the good wicked, in order to keep themselves positioned in the court of earthly power.

And John Hawthorne, an evangelical sociologist has some good thoughts:
It must be noted that most evangelical churchgoers may not be paying any attention to these conflicts. They are happy to go to their Sunday Services and worship Jesus in song and word. Emma Green had a great interview with former head of the National Association of Evangelicals Leith Anderson. He argues that evangelicalism is about faith and not about politics. Emma tries valiantly and compassionately to get him to address the conflict therein, but he never gets there. Sarah McCammon interviewed a pair of Southern Baptist pastors (note: lots of evangelicals are not Southern Baptists!) on Saturday’s Weekend All Things Considered. The pastors argued that while there are broad social conflicts, people “at the level of the pew” don’t experience that division.

It needs to be recognized that the privatization of faith is what has allowed a public political stance that is largely divorced from deep theological insight. If we ever need serious work on political theology, it is today. Even though it runs the risk of causing short-term discomfort within local congregations, it would create a more healthy body of Christ as it interrogates matters of politics and public policy.

But don't look for that to happen anytime soon. Discomfort means a possible budget shortfall in the church building program, or that the megapastor won't get his million dollar bonus, or something like that. Besides, who wants to think? That's hard work. Nope. Keep the bread and circuses coming and everything will be fine. Except it won't.

Take a look at John Fea's blog. He's been following the Trump phenomena closely since 2016 and is quite insightful. Here's a recent sample:

Would a non-college educated factory worker in the Midwest who claims the name of Jesus Christ think that racism, misogyny, nativism, the degradation of one’s enemies, and lying are moral problems? Wouldn’t any Christian, formed by the teachings of a local church and the spiritual disciplines (as opposed to the daily barrage of Fox News), see the need to condemn such behavior? What does social class have to do with it? Shouldn’t one’s identity in the Gospel and its moral implications for living transcend class identity?

For those who are lamenting disunion in the church, I have another question: Shouldn’t the church be an otherworldly, counter-cultural institution that finds some unity in the condemnation of immoral behavior in the corridors of national power? Or should we take our marching orders from the divisive, class-based identity politics of Donald Trump?

And long-time pacifist/activist/theologian/seminary professor Ron Sider chimes in, citing Christmas, urging Christians to look at the bigger picture:
Christ has chosen the church as the place where his reign is to become most visible and powerful. And that means that Christians must live and promote biblical values about truth, justice, freedom, life and peace both in their personal lives and their political decisions. It also means that no matter who wins elections or what politicians do, God’s reign continues to take shape on this earth. When politicians are at their worst, defying Christ and promoting evil, Christ’s kingdom can still advance. (Although when people who claim the name of Jesus join evil politicians, God’s kingdom suffers serious setbacks.) And when politicians are most sympathetic to biblical values, they are still a mixed bag of good and evil, and everything they do is less important than proclaiming the gospel and living as Jesus’ new redeemed body of believers.
OK, one last look at this and then we'll move on to other things. Righting of America takes a look at a defense of Trump written by a Jack Graham, senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas. I have to agree with the final paragraphs of the critique:
I am not calling into question Rev. Graham’s sincerity because I have no doubt of his sincerity. I am sure he is a very serious and sincere Christian. What I don’t recognize is the Christianity he represents. I am convinced that the Christianity represented by the evangelical defenders of President Trump is in fact not Christian. It is not shaped by the gospel but by the secular political philosophy of evangelical leaders. It is an “Americanized” faith that has faith in the USA, in “Make America Great Again,” in a false patriotism that excludes dissenters, in a greed-infested idolatry of wealth, in an ignoring of the teachings of the prophets and especially of Jesus.

This version of Christianity no longer knows how to recognize idolatry. It exists in an atmosphere of fear, nostalgia, and a deep-seated desire to have the power to control others (John Fea, Believe Me). Pulling no punches, Stanley Hauerwas concludes that churches identified with the “church growth movement” are nothing more than paganism in disguise” (In Good Company: The Church as Polis, Kindle ed., 4).

What Rev. Graham defends is not historic evangelical faith, but a Trump evangelical understanding rooted in secular political power and wealth. Graham’s argument in behalf of President Trump represents just another example of the church and her preachers failing to take the radical good news of Jesus to heart and apply it to all of life.

Violence! Everywhere violence! Whether church or synagogue shootings, or drone attacks, it seems our society is addicted to violence. What's a Christian to do? The ReKnew blog takes a look:
If Jesus is Lord, we are commanded to renounce violence as a way of resisting evil. We renounce the violence of evil men (it’s always men right?) and we renounce the cycle that so easily ensnares our sanctified minds. Fear of death corrodes our ability to imagine a faithful response beyond full participation in the cycle of violence. Death, and the fear of it, are signs that God’s good world is not as it should be. We are not as we should be.

Jesus entered our world of violence and lived into a story that contradicted the lie that death is in charge. Jesus saw reality the way God saw it; he could see something deeper than our collective human experience and conviction about death. He proclaimed this message and invited us to live into it. Therefore, we must resist the pull to live into a false narrative of retribution and heroic violence. We must resist the story death proclaims by grieving its widespread acceptance and condemning it as vanity. We resist death by taking up arms of communal prayer, self sacrifice, lament, and gospel hope, but never with weapons of worldly means. Churches that use guns for self protection acquiesce to the spirit of this age.

If we begin to accept armed protection as a legitimate means we deny the One we claim to follow. By accepting armed protection, we move into a false narrative that says self protection, even at the expense of taking life, is compatible, justifiable, and reasonable with enemy love. We deny the very story that has changed the world, and we live as if the new has not come and as if the old is not already passing away.

And what is a posting on this blog without mentioning books?! Here are a pair: Wade Burleson on the value of books and reading. He takes special aim at television, but I would include binge-watching in that category.

But, be careful about setting a goal of XX books this year, as this person discovered:

Finding myself in the middle of a book I never want to end is among the greatest joys of reading. I live for the desire to finish a book in one sitting, and the competing desire to slow down and make the pleasure last. Sadly, I robbed myself that pleasure this year. I blew through everything I read, including books I would’ve dragged out for weeks just to live in their worlds a little longer.

Today’s habit-happy productivity culture advocates for setting measurable, attainable goals. Finishing what we start is considered a victory. But our reading lives shouldn’t depend on filling in a Goodreads progress bar. That’s because reading isn’t just any old habit to track.

Yep. I've never really measured how many books I read each year. I've also never felt bad about abandoning a book that didn't interest me. I've also been wrestling my way through some books for a few years. For example, I'm about 2/3 through an introduction to cognitive linguistics that I started over 3 years ago. By the time I finish it, I'll need to go back and read it again!

OK, that's it for this week. Good reading!

Friday, January 03, 2020

Uh-oh! There's that early high christology again!

While Christocentric in focus, the view of Jesus promoted in these passages is deeply rooted in a Jewish conception of the divine, so much so that Jesus is shown to be worthy of receiving the honor that was due in early Judaism to the one true God. In light of this it was not surprising to see that these early christological hymns were creatively and critically engaged with Jewish scripural traditions. One way they reflect this is through their engagement with passages of Scripture relating to prophetic promises of renewal and restoration, particularly as seen in Isaiah 40-66. Scriptures relating to the glory of God, the temple, and personified Wisdom also are important in many of the hymns we examined. The New Testament christological hymns also seem to have maintained a meaningful connection to the Jewish psalm tradition, a tradition that was alive and well during the Second Temple period. These early christological hymns thereby show themselves to be connected to a living tradition of psalm composition and religious poetry, a genre that itself had a long pedigree of engaging culture, drawing on even earlier traditions, and resisting easy answers to the problem of suffering.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, p. 223

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Christocentric worship

To begin with, it is clear that early Christian worship was centered on Christ. This conclusion seems not at all surprising or even all that interesting given that I have chosen here to explore christological hymns. Still, the fact that the early Christian milieu was generative of passages that offer hymnic declarations about Christ in elevated style and poetic form is foundational for this study. In a range of ways these passages invite readers to embrace a particular view of reality centered on the events surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I suggest that it is not these hymnic passages alone that give rise to this dynamic. What we know of early Christian worship as a whole indicates that much of it was similarly centered on Christ. Though we have little direct evidence of early Christian worship, there are good reasons to see these passages as a reflection of an already widespread emphasis on the centrality of Christ among these communities. Apart from the existence of such a prevalent christological perspective within the Christian communities, it is difficult to imagine a scenario that would result in such diverse yet related Christ-centered passages with hymnic features embedded throughout the New Testament writings.—Matthew Gordley, New Testament Christological Hymns, 222–23

<idle musing>
Sadly, I fear that is not the case in what passes for Christian worship today. A deadly mixture of me-centered, tuneless songs, repeated ad nauseum, followed by a sermon that most frequently is devoid of any scriptural foundation, if not outright heresy. And don't forget about the flag worship and the rampant nationalism.

How the mighty have fallen. Lord, have mercy!
</idle musing>