Friday, May 20, 2022

A blessing missed

Later, we are told by Abraham’s servant (24:36) and by the narrator in a genealogy (25:5) that Abraham gave all he had to Isaac (possibly as compensation for what he went through on the mountain). But it is significant that Abraham never blesses Isaac. It was literally impossible to do, given that they never met again after chapter 22. Instead, we are told that after Abraham’s death God blessed Isaac (25:11).51 God made up for Abraham’s failing. But was it ever fully made up? What would be the effect on Isaac of the estrangement and the resulting lack of direct blessing from his father?—Abraham's Silence, 210

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Silence speaking volumes

Whereas Abraham became silent at the end of his intercession in Genesis 18 (he stopped the conversation earlier than he needed to and so never fully grasped the wideness in God’s mercy), here, in Genesis 22, he never gets the conversation off the ground. He is simply silent. And this silence speaks volumes. It articulates a view of God as clearly as if he had used words. I would suggest that Abraham’s silence speaks of God as a harsh taskmaster who is not to be challenged. If that is what Abraham learned about God, we may wonder what he passed on to Isaac.—Abraham's Silence, 206

<idle musing>
Indeed! That might be the reason why Isaac is such a one-dimensional character. And note that in Gen 31:42, God is called the "terror of Isaac."

That seems apt, doesn't it?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

And he was shown wanting

It is possible that Abraham was merely accommodating his speech to the presumed polytheism of the pagan king (which was unnecessary, since God had already revealed himself to Abimelech in 20:12). But even if Abraham was not confused about the unity of the divine nature, it is reasonable to think Abraham needs further guidance in distinguishing YHWH from the gods of the nations.

In light of the command that Abraham receives in 22:2 to sacrifice his son, we may put the question of Abraham’s discernment of God’s character more pointedly. Is the God of Abraham simply one of the pagan deities of Mesopotamia or Canaan who requires child sacrifice as a symbol of allegiance? Or is he different, a God of mercy and love for his children, who was even willing to forgo udgment on Sodom for the sake of the righteous? That was something Abraham should have learned in chapter 18, so he could pass it on to his own children. But he didn’t. The lesson was cut short—by Abraham himself.

And so in a final, climactic episode in the Abraham story, God gives Abraham another opportunity to learn and grow in the relationship. But God ups the ante this time; God raises the stakes. It’s not his nephew Lot who will be destroyed (along with Sodom, his home). It is Abraham's own son. And it’s not God who will do it; Abraham must do it by his own hand. If anything would force Abraham to speak out, to appeal to the mercy of God, this would be it. Abraham has the opportunity, in this test, to protest the command and intercede for his son’s life, which would articulate his view of the character and ways of God——both in what he says to God and by the fact that he says it. And it would, further, show his love for Isaac (which would be a good thing, not an impediment to his commitment to God).

But Abraham doesn’t speak out; he is silent.—Abraham's Silence, 205–6 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Ouch! I hope I'm a better student of God than that! I hope I don't cut short the lesson(s) that God has for me!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Beyond what we can ask or think…

…It is as if YHWH is looking for an excuse to save Sodom (and Lot).

YHWH’s instructions to Jeremiah might be relevant here. In 5:1 God tells the prophet,

Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
look around and take note!
Search its squares and see
if you can find one person
who acts justly
and seeks truth—
so that I may pardon Jerusalem.
This suggests that God might forestall destruction of a wicked city for just one righteous person. That Abraham stops at ten, however, suggests that he hasn’t fully plumbed the depths of divine mercy. He has not yet learned what God wanted to teach him. Nevertheless, God rescues Lot and his family through angelic agency (Gen. 19), even though Abraham hadn’t thought to ask for that outright.—Abraham's Silence, 202-3

<idle musing>
That just blows my mind! I hadn't thought of it before, but that Abraham neglects to ask for the safety of Lot (and his family) and God goes the extra distance to save them is truly theology-shaking. My box of what God wants to do is vastly expanded (again!).

I've mentioned Widmer's book, Standing in the Breach before, and he heads in this same direction. But Middleton goes beyond him in exploring God's mercy.

And in light of the happenings over the weekend, I would say that this is a nice encouragement to continue to pray for peace and revival in the face of an epidemic of hate!
</idle musing>

Monday, May 16, 2022

Unquestioning obedience? Not so much!

I am going to suggest that Abraham was being tested not for his unquestioning obedience (that is not something God wants) but rather for his discernment of God’s character. I agree that he was being tested for his trust in God. But genuine trust is not equivalent to blind faith to do anything a voice from heaven tells you. Rather, trust in God requires knowledge or discernment of what sort of God this is.—Abraham's Silence, 197

Friday, May 13, 2022

We might have it all wrong

Given that it isn’t clear at all that Abraham is attached to Isaac, could it be that Abraham is being given a chance in chapter 22 to prove his love for his remaining son? After all, God’s instructions to Abraham in 22:2 contain the following description of Isaac: “your son, your only one, whom you love—Isaac.” So maybe Abraham’s love for Isaac was being tested. As noted in the last chapter, it is possible that the phrase “Whom you love” has the rhetorical effect not of a declarative statement of fact but rather of suggesting to Abraham that he loves Isaac or of attempting to evoke his love for Isaac—with the _sense of “You love him, don’t you?”

But what would be evidence of this love? I suggest that Abraham could prove his love for Isaac by speaking out and protesting God’s command to sacrifice him. Indeed, speaking out on behalf of Isaac might well extend and deepen Abraham’s incipient love for his son (testing often brings to the surface and makes actual what is only potential).—Abraham's Silence, 195–96 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I find that to be a provocative thought. What about you? He's right that Abraham seems to favor Ishmael over Isaac.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 12, 2022

How not to treat a promise (and your wife!)

But there is a second problem with the traditional reading of the Aqedah—namely, that it is unclear why this test is needed at all. The Abraham story gives absolutely no evidence of Abraham’s special attachment to Isaac, such that giving him up would prove his commitment to God.

Abraham would seem, rather, to be attached to Ishmael,something that is very clear from chapters 17 and 21. When God tells Abraham that Isaac, not Ishmael, is the one through whom the covenant will be passed, this leads Abraham to plead for God not to forget Ishmael. He exclaims, “O that Ishmael might live in your sight!” (17:18). And when Sarah wants him to send Hagar and Ishmael away, we are told, “The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son" (21:11). In both cases, we find a significant difference from Abraham's response when God tells him to sacrifice Isaac.

In fact, the account of what happens in Genesis 20 suggests that Abraham is so attached to Ishmael that he simply doesn’t care about the replacement son that is promised.

We should remember that Abraham had passed Sarah off as his sister in Egypt back in chapter 12, with the result that Pharaoh took her into his harem. Abraham does this again in chapter 20, this time in Gerar, so the king of Gerar takes her into his harem. But note that chapter 20 comes after God announced that the covenant heir would be born to Sarah (17:16) and after God predicted that this would happen shortly—presumably within the next year (17:21; 18:10, 14). And yet, knowing this, Abraham goes ahead and passes Sarah off as his sister a second time, not caring that he might lose her (and the promised heir with her); indeed, she might even have been pregnant at the time.—Abraham's Silence, 194–95 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Definitely not the traditional reading! But, sad to say, it makes better sense of the text than the traditional reading does. And it gives you food for thought, doesn't it? We all have our agendas that we bring to God. And not infrequently they differ substantially from God's purposes.

May we be open to changing our agenda to that which God desires!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Why the silence?

But we should also note that the accounts of Abraham’s intercession (on behalf of Sodom and Abimelech) come before the Aqedah, at which time Abraham becomes strangely silent in the face of God’s command to sacrifice his son (he does not intercede for Isaac). As I suggested in my earlier discussion of Job (in chap 4), the reversal of Abraham from passionate speech (Gen. 18) to later silence (Gen. 22) may be addressed by Job’s own move in the other direction—from initial silence at the end of the prologue (implied in Job 2:13) to bold speech (starting in 3:1), and then again from his refusal to answer after God’s first speech (40:3–5) to his articulation of comfort after the second speech (42:6).—Abraham's Silence, 186–87

Monday, May 09, 2022

Is the beginning treated like the end?

I wonder about the contrast between Abraham and Job. After all, Job moves beyond his initial praise of God (chap. 1), followed by his passive acceptance of whatever God sends him (chap. 2), to voice abrasive protest about his sufferings (from chap. 3 onward). Might this indicate that the book of Job intends to contrast two different ways of fearing God—one that is manifest in silent submission (Abraham), the other that is compatible with vocal protest (Job)?

But there is another possibility. Given that Job started out (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3) where Abraham ended (Gen. 22:12)—with the fear of God—could the point of the comparison be that Job progressed beyond that? Although the fear of God/YHWH is a positive attribute, highly praised in the Wisdom Literature, and is identified with wisdom in Job 28:28 (“Truly, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; / and to depart from evil is understanding”), what are we to make of the prominent thematic statement that the fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom or knowledge (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; also Sir. 1:14), rather than its culmination?—Abraham's Silence, 185 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Definitely food for thought! One of my favorite OT/HB books is Habakkuk. And he definitely argues with God! A lot! And just like Job, in the end he trusts God. That's where I find myself sometimes—in the first chapters of Habakkuk, not the final one. I usually end up in the final chapter, but sometimes it takes a while to get there.

But now, after reading this, I wonder if maybe even after getting to the final chapter of Habakkuk, I can't continue to plead with God to bring about the changes—that I might see the prayer of Amos, "Let justice roll down like waters, righteousness like an never-ending stream," answered in my lifetime.

A bit later in the book (we'll get to it), he claims that Abraham, when interceding for Sodom in Gen 18, didn't go far enough, that God had to take the initiative himself to save Lot and family, when he was hoping that Abraham would push him further. And, later still, after the Aqedah, God modifies the covenant to be unconditional. What a mind-blowing idea! Mull that over in your mind for a while—and then throw in Paul's comment in Ephesians 3:20, "who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us" (CEB).

If that doesn't give you hope for prayer, I don't know what can. by the way, for a good look at intercessory prayer, read Widmer's book Standing in the Breach. I've excerpted from it on this blog; you can find them by searching on the label Standing in the Breach (or by clicking on the preceding link or the tag below). Good reading! And praying!
</idle musing>

Friday, May 06, 2022

Where did he go?!

But perhaps the most important datum within Genesis 22 that supports a critical reading of Abraham’s response is that Isaac is missing at the end of the story. In verse 5 Abraham tells his servants that he and the boy will go up the mountain to worship and “we will return to you.” Yet the narrator tells us in verse 19 that “Abraham returned to his servants.” Isaac is conspicuously absent. Abraham’s son is not recorded as returning with him down the mountain. And this is a very well—crafted narrative, in which every detail matters. 182

<idle musing>
I find this the most disconcerting part of the story. But, would you come back down the mountain with a dad like that? I would have to think twice! And is it significant that a bit later, in the Jacob and Esau story, that God is called the God of Abraham and the Terror of Isaac (Gen 31.42)?

Food for thought anyway. Let's see where he goes with this.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Can you love a God like that? Brunner says, "NO!"

The doctrine of the double decree is, however, not only not supported by the evidence of Scripture, it is also impossible to equate it with the message of the Bible. It leads to an understanding of God and of man which is contrary to the idea of God and of man as given in revelation. It leads to consequences which are in absolute and direct opposition to the central statements of the Bible. Of course, the champions of the doctrine of Predestination have never admitted this, but, on the contrary, they have taken great pains to evade these conclusions, and to smooth out the contradiction; but this is speculative effort which, from their own standpoint, was inevitable, their argument becomes sophistical and contradictory. If God is the One who, before He created the world, conceived the plan of creating two kinds of human beings—non pari conditione creantur omnes, Calvin says explicitly—namely, those who are destined for eternal life—the minority—and the rest—the majority—for everlasting destruction, then it is impossible truly to worship this God as the God of love, even if this be commanded us a thousand times, and indeed at the cost of the loss of eternal salvation. Essentially, it is impossible to regard the will which conceives this double decree as the same will which is represented as Agape in the New Testament. All Calv1n’s arguments against these objections come to the same point in the end: these two conceptions must be kept together in thought, because both are stated in the Word of God. God is Love, that is the clear Biblical message; God has conceived the double decree, that is—according to Calvin’s erroneous opinion—equally clearly, the Biblical message; thus one must identify the God of the double decree with the God who is Love. But when we reveal the error in the second statement, the whole argument, which demands the impossible, falls to the ground. The Bible does not urge us to believe that the God whom it reveals to us as the God of love has created some human beings for eternal life and the rest for eternal doom. Equally inevitably the double decree contains a second consequence for the Idea of God which is in opposition to the Biblical message: God is then unmistakably “auctor peccati" [author of sin]. Zwingli drew this conclusion courageously, without “turning a hair”, only making the excuse that the moral standard which is valid for us cannot be applied to God. This at least can be said, and in itself the idea is not contradictory. Calvin, on the contrary, is terrified of this conclusion, and calls it blasphemous. In point of fact, it is impossible to say of the God whom the Biblical revelation shows us, that He is the Author of Evil. But Calvin tries in vain to eliminate this conclusion from his doctrine of predestination. Here, too, his argument simply ends in saying: “You must not draw this conclusion!”—an exhortation which cannot be obeyed by anyone who thinks.

The consequences of the doctrine of predestination are just as disastrous for the understanding of Man as they are for the Idea of God. Predestination in the sense of the “double decree” means unmistakably: All has been fixed from eternity. From all eternity, before he was created, each individual has been written down in the one Book or the other. Predestination in the sense of the double decree is the most ruthless determinism that can be imagined. 331–32 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
It's hard to know where to stop. I could post the whole chapter, it's so good. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing: Chapter 23: The Problem of "Double Predestination," 321–39, The Christian Doctrine of God (the link is to a legal copy on Archive.org). There are also good used copies on Abe, or you could buy a new paperback from Wipf & Stock

By the way, the next chapter, an appendix on the history of predestination is very good too. As my seminary theology professor used to say, "You owe it to yourself to read it."

Let me just highlight this sentence, which sums up my feelings exactly: "it is impossible truly to worship this God as the God of love, even if this be commanded us a thousand times, and indeed at the cost of the loss of eternal salvation." Indeed!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Is it exemplary? Maybe not…

Throughout the first ten verses of the Aqedah the narrator has skillfully conveyed a series of rhetorical signals that suggest tension, stress, and perhaps internal confusion on Abraham’s part, while portraying a significant power differential between an active father and a passive son. He has done this by giving very few details, while leaving a lot to the reader’s imagination. Although we should be reluctant to definitively fill in the gaps in this narrative, such as claiming to know the mental state of either Abraham or Isaac, the attentive reader is nevertheless left to wonder about the validity of Abraham’s response to God. The rhetorical signals of this artfully crafted story, together with the pervasive biblical background of vigorous prayer in situations of difficulty, combine to raise questions about whether Abraham’s silent obedience to God’s command should be viewed as exemplary.—Abraham's Silence, 181–82

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Why didn't he??

Scripture provides normative precedent for speaking one’s mind directly to God, even challenging God over the injustice or wrongness of any situation in one’s own life or in the wider world.

This biblical precedent of vigorous prayer raises the question of why Abraham didn’t intercede for Isaac. Given this weighty precedent, we might wonder why he didn’t cry out like the psalmist in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Or he could have pleaded, as Jesus did in Gethsemane, “Remove this cup from me.”

Indeed, just four chapters before the Aqedah, Abraham does challenge God, with great boldness.—Abraham's Silence, 132–33

<idle musing>
I told you it was going to get interesting…
</idle musing>

Monday, May 02, 2022

What if we have the purpose all wrong?

The midrash in Genesis Rabbah 55:7, where God reveals step-by-step the identity of the one to be sacrificed, goes on to interpret this as God attempting to make Isaac “even more beloved in his [Abraham's] eyes and reward him for each and every word spoken” (trans. from Sefaria.org. While I agree that this may serve to stir up Abraham’s love for Isaac, the purpose might be different from what the midrash suggests (namely, that Abraham’s reward for sacrificing him will be even greater). Perhaps the point is to get Abraham to show his love for Isaac by interceding for him. I will return to this possibility.—Abraham's Silence, 173 n. 20

<idle musing>
Indeed! What an intriguing idea. Hold onto your hat as he explores that possibility. This is going to be interesting...
</idle musing>

Sunday, May 01, 2022

But what does Brunner say?

Though it is perfectly true that Calvin desired to be first and foremost a Biblical theologian, it is, on the other hand, equally evident that no one has any right to read the doctrine of double predestination into the Bible, and, indeed, that if we pay proper attention to what the Scriptures say, it is impossible to deduce this doctrine from the Bible at all.—The Christian Doctrine of God, Dogmatics: vol. I, 326

Friday, April 29, 2022

YHWH or Elohim? Why the switch?

Although we cannot be sure of the reason for the narrator’s switch from YHWH to hā’elōhîm in 22:1, 3, and 9, my hunch is that we are thereby put on notice that the issue at stake is whether Abraham’s God is just a generic deity, like the gods of the nations (hā’elōhîm), or the one known as YHWH, whose distinctive character Abraham needs to come to understand.” Indeed, while it is hā’elōhîmwho commands the sacrifice of Isaac, this sacrifice is stopped by a messenger or angel of YHWH (22:11), who speaks in YHWH’s name; and the name YHWH becomes connected to the place of Isaac’s rescue (22:14)—in both a place name (“YHWH sees/provides”) and a saying (“On the mount of YHWH it shall be seen/provided”). Perhaps this switch from hā’elōhîmto YHWH in the narrative is a signal to the reader that the instruction to sacrifice Abraham’s son could not be something that the deity known as YHWH really wants (or expects) Abraham to do. —Abraham's Silence, 128

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Vindication!

However we evaluate the details of the epilogue, it is clear that Job’s response to God at the end of the second speech involves a retraction of his earlier abased silence (along with his lawsuit against YHWH) because he has come to understand that God values this human dialogue partner, especially for his honest, abrasive, unsubdued speech. And Job is appropriately consoled or comforted over this. A careful reading of the book of Job thus suggests a fundamental coherence between God’s intent in the speeches from the whirlwind, on the one hand, and God’s explicit approval of Job in the prose epilogue, on the other.

The book of Job thus suggests that between the extremes of blessing God explicitly (which is, of course, appropriate speech and which Job does at the outset) and cursing God (which is clearly folly, and which Job therefore avoids), there is the viable option of honest, forthright challenge to God in prayer, which God (as Creator) both wants and expects of those made in the divine image—and this is right speech too.—Abraham's Silence, 128

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Expanding the inheritance

Significantly, only the daughters are named—Jemimah, Keziah, and Kerenhappuch (42:14), beautiful names that evoke the beauty of the daughters themselves, which the narrator tells us is beyond the ordinary (.42:15a). But more important than their names or beauty is the fact that Job gives his daughters an inheritance equal to his sons (42:15b), something highly unusual in the Hebrew Bible.

This goes beyond the case of the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 27:1-11. That text records an incident in which Zelophehad’s five daughters (who are named [27:2], like Job’s daughters) come to Moses after their father dies, requesting that his inheritance come to them, since there are no sons to carry on his name (27:1—4). Moses takes their request to YHWH, who not only agrees (27:5—7; also 36:2) but makes it a standing ordinance in Israel that the inheritance should go to daughters if there are no sons (27:8). But Job goes well beyond this, since he had sons, yet he gave his daughters an inheritance equal to theirs. Why might this be important? Has Job’s experience of being ostracized (at the bottom of the social ladder), along with his protest about the injustice he felt was being done to him and his recognition of YHWH’s concern for him even in his suffering, profoundly impacted his ethical sensibilities and spilled over into advocacy on behalf of those suffering the injustice of patriarchy?—Abraham's Silence, 127–28

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Job yells at God and…

Having critiqued the speech of Job’s friends, YHWH instructs them to go to Job (whom YHWH calls “my servant” four times in 42:7—8) and offer sacrifices, While Job prays for them: “I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to folly; for you have not spoken to me what is right, as my servant Job has done” (42:8; my translation). Here it is significant that Job not only follows the pattern of the psalmists who bring their complaints to God in honest prayer; he also functions like Moses, who intercedes for Israel, turning away God’s wrath (after the golden calf episode at Sinai and again after the episode with the spies at the border of the Promised Land).

And YHWH accepted Job’s prayer on behalf of his friends (42:9) and “restored the fortunes of Job,” giving him twice as much as he previously had (42:10), specified in the numbers of his livestock (42:12). When it comes to interpersonal relationships, Job both receives and gives. He receives comfort (and gifts) from his brothers and sisters, and from others who knew him (42:11), and he also receives new children—seven sons and three daughters were born to him (42:13).—Abraham's Silence, 126–27

Monday, April 25, 2022

Like a beast

Through a complex web of associations, ]ob’s fearless and courageous strength, by which he stood up to the verbal and emotional assaults of his friends, is evoked in the description of Behemoth and Leviathan. Like them, Job has been impervious to the assaults of his adversaries, and this is a good thing.

The core of the comparison is found in the description of the powerful mouth of each beast. Whereas [Job] 40:23 pictures Behemoth standing fearlessly facing the turbulent Jordan, as its waters rush against its open mouth, Job had previously (in 6:15-21) compared his friends’ attempts at consolation to a treacherous Wadi or torrent bed that at first seemed full of rushing water but that quickly dried up and disappeared in the face of Job’s sufferings and complaint. That Job was able to verbally stand against and outlast his companions (much as Behemoth is able to stand against the raging Jordan) belies his own sense of impotence just a few verses before (6:12—13). Indeed, Job’s own self—description in 6:12 (“ls my strength the strength of stones?/ or is my flesh bronze?”) is echoed in God’s description of Behemoth in 40:18 (“Its bones are tubes of bronze, / its limbs like bars of iron”). The implication is that Job, in standing up to his friends, is more powerful than he thinks.—Abraham's Silence, 112

Friday, April 22, 2022

The power of prayer

These prohibitions of prayer in response to Jeremiah’s continuing inter- cessions are not simply a statement of God’s firmness or wrath in the face of the people’s recalcitrance. Rather, they testify to the power of prophetic prayer, which appeals to YHWH’s predisposition to show mercy. And they are intertwined with expressions of God’s own grief and pathos over the coming judgment (as in 14:17–18).—Abraham's Silence, 59–60

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Speak it out!

The fact is that silence will not get us through the pain. Only speech addressed to God gets us through—speech that summons God into our suffering, which says to God, as the writer of Psalm 30 did, “Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! / O LORD, be my helper!” (30:10). Or, even as the writer of Psalm 39 did in his impropriety, “Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again” (39:13a). It doesn’t have to be theologically correct speech. But it has to be gut—honest speech. 36

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Don't be afraid to yell!

Following the lead of the psalmists, we can take our anger, our doubt, and all the dismay and the terror of life, and we can put it at the feet of the Most High. We can bring our pain to the throne of God and say, “You’re supposed to be faithful, but I don’t see it! You’re supposed to be good, but I don’t experience it.”

And, contrary to appearances, that desperate, honest voicing of pain to God is not blasphemous, but is a holy, redemptive act. Prayers of lament are radical acts of faith and hope because they refuse, even in the midst of suffering, to give up on God.—Abraham's Silence, 35 (emphasis original)

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

the importance of being honest—especially with God!

Just as it is inappropriate to bad-mouth someone behind their back, yet important to directly confront them, letting them know how they have let you down (for the sake of the relationship), so there is an important distinction to be made between general claims about God’s character (say, in a theology book) and speech addressed directly to God in prayer. These are fundamentally different sorts of speech acts.—Abraham's Silence, 34 n. 27

<idle musing>
One of my favorite books in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible is Habakkuk. He's so honest. He sees injustice and complains to God about it. God answers, and he complains again, and again. In the end, he praises God because he believes, but along the way—well, it's honest, rugged, and raw.

I like to tell people not to be afraid to yell at God. He's big enough to take it. And it's not like he doesn't already know what you are thinking! Be honest. You might find your faith strengthened instead of weakened.

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, April 18, 2022

Knowing just enough Greek to get into trouble

Saw this over the weekend on JSTOR. It highlights the dangers of knowing some, but not enough Greek. The error is fairly easy to do, in that Greek upper case R looks like a P, but overcorrection is always fun :)

Again, it emphasizes the necessity of proof reading front matter! Check your work!

Advance the fight (nonviolently!)

Christians may work with others outside the church who hold, at points, overlapping interests and aims. In the face of neoliberal capitalism, that should include work to limit the market’s reach and reembed it in and subordinate it to the public weal. It should also include a forthright recognition of class conflict and the fact that ncoliberalism radically favors the wealthy’s welfare at the expense of the less wealthy and the poor. This last, in a world where policy debate tries to ignore or deny class, will incite complaints that Christians are promoting class warfare. But as William Cavanaugh wryly observes, that is like accusing firemen of arson because they keep showing up at burning houses. The church can and should brave nonviolent conflict, not least in its concern for the neediest among us.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 205-6 (embedded quotation from Cavanaugh, Field Hospital, 28)

<idle musing>
That's the final snippet from the book. I hope you've enjoyed the journey and learned a thing or two. I know it helped me put together pieces of stuff I had been noticing for a long time. To see in "named" was extremely helpful, just as Clapp said it would. Once something is named, it is harder for it to stay hidden.

I may post an excursus on one point in the book; we'll see. Meanwhile, the next book is J. Richard Middleton, Abraham's Silence. I'm not sure how much I'll post from it, as it seems to be one of those books where excerpting it destroys the argument because of how it is built up. But, we'll get at least a week or three out of it.
</idle musing>

Friday, April 15, 2022

Compelling, but not coercive

Third, and relatedly, beauty is compelling but not coercive. God, by Christian accounting, does not overwhelm us and crush us with imperatives. God is interested in our genuine love; God woos but does not rape. God stoops to the human level and accommodates human finitude and fallibility, culminating in the cross where God hangs broken and dying to take on human sin and defeat death. In these senses, God “evangelizes” not through implacable propositions, hemming us in with logical arguments, but through participating in our very earthly life and offering costly love. And there is something unsurpassably beautiful about this. Especially in a post-Constantinian, post-Christian world, we can no longer—to our own as well as to others’ benefit—attempt to coerce faith. We can, however, live it in a way that we hope will be beautiful and so draw others to it. The early church, itself literally unable to coerce participation, recognized this as appropriate to the very ways and character of God.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 201

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The importance of proofreading front matter

The most overlooked part of a book while proofreading is the front matter. I was discussing that the other day with Gary Rendsburg, and he forwarded this gem to me.
Yep, 1804! He added the [1904] to illustrate the actual date of publication. Anyone who is familiar with Akkadian knows 1804 is impossible; Akkadian wasn't even deciphered until the second half of the 1800s. Nippur itself wasn't seriously excavated until 1889 (Layard briefly excavated around 1850).

Moral of the story: Check the front matter—twice!

Table of Contents for copyediting stuff.

Hero Worship

Have done, then, with hero-worship and admiration first and foremost of the famous. Look instead to a church or churches you know well and to everyday examples of faithfulness there. Think of the couple sixty years married, still delighting in one another and God. Think of the neighborhood church that stood up against injustice to immigrants. Think of your own church’s quiet victories of endurance in the face of setbacks and opposition. The point is not, again, to idolize or stop our vision on these exemplars, which all have clay feet. It is to treat them as icons we look through to see and focus on Jesus. It is Jesus alone who lived without sinning. It is Jesus alone who never fails. It is Jesus alone through whom all creation was made and redeemed.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 199

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Seen in my wanderings

Saw this last week in a store. If I didn't already have too many mugs, I would have bought it. It pegs me. I suspect it pegs a lot of you also.

Word for the century

The Christian response to failure is repentance and the relinquishment of hero-worship.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 198

<idle musing>
Let those who have ears to hear, hear!
</idle musing>

Monday, April 11, 2022

Going back to go forward

In three regards, then—non-Constantinianism, hyperpluralism, and Epicureanism—the world today is rather like, or parallel to, the world of the church before the fifth century. We can accordingly expect both the Bible and early Christian traditions to have renewed, keen, and thoroughgoing resonances for our time and place.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 196

Friday, April 08, 2022

Ultimate control?

Lastly, it [the promise of the resurrection] grants us courage in the face of slavery to the fear of death, which otherwise can lead us to readily succumb to political and economic regimes that may, to keep us in line, wield their ultimate threat: death. Psychologists have found that people’s attitudes are most friendly to political authoritarianism when they are reminded of the reality of death. Christians are those people who, if true to their convictions and the victory of God in Jesus Christ, should be most impervious to authoritarianism. This was the case with Paul in light of his apocalyptic gospel. Paul saw the law as “ultimately in the service of Death. As Tedjennings explains, "Law and death are inextricably bound together. Death is the 'or else' of law, without which law does not have the force of law." Hence, the law is described in Rom 8:2 as the "Law of Sin and Death" (and see 1 Cor 15:55–56). The law requires Death, the threat of Death, or various lesser deaths (imprisonment, impoverishment, enslavement) in order to operate. Because it is fundamentally dependent upon Death (and thereby operates in the service of Death), the law contributes to the spread of Sin.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 182–83

<idle musing>
And that's why I find it so troubling that so many "Christians" live in such fear. If you really believe that God in Christ has conquered, not just death, but everything (see Rom 8), then how can you live in fear? How can you embrace a strongman to protect you when you are already "hidden with Christ in God" (Col 3)?

Just wondering…
</idle musing>

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Courage

But did they thereby [through baptism] altogether eliminate the fear of death? I doubt it. What they may have learned was an increased courage in the face of death. Note that courage is not the absence of fear but its mastery. Failing to experience fear where fear is appropriate is not the Virtue of courage; it is the vice of foolhardiness. What matters, or what we might most fittingly aim for, is not the total absence of feelings of fear in the face of death but again a sort of bifocal vision, on the one hand seeing death in all its fearsome power, and on the other hand also seeing it overcome in Christ’s cross and resurrection. We might not erase all fearful emotions, yet we might master the fears and proceed in the face of death. We might no longer be frozen or take flight in death’s shadow.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 177

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Silent scream

At the behest of an unrestrained market, we have in just over two centuries depleted goods it took millions of years for nature to accrue. Future generations may look back on us and, mashing up the verb squander and the noun scoundrel, call us something like “squandrels.” In any event, the damage already done by climate change is considerable. Beyond the overwhelming science, we can see with our own eyes the melting ice caps or the ice fishers unable to venture onto Lake Michigan in the winters of 2019 and 2020. Creation is speaking, even shouting now. How much more blessed we will be—cocreatures and coworshippers all, men and women, rocks and trees, dogs and bees—if humans relearn how to hear creation’s voice, not just at a scream, but at a whisper.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age,169–70

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

In cooperation with, not in competition with

Accordingly, in the face of neoliberal capitalism, which envisions creation only as exploitable nature, an apocalyptic perspective calls the church and the world to exercise not merely or primarily power over creation but power with creation. We may—we must—long and work for an economics that responds to creation gently and attentively. And as the climate crisis demonstrates, we must work for a sustainable economics, not one that assumes and promotes infinite growth in a finite world. Such an economics “does not idolize or fetishize nature, but it affirms that salvation is cosmic in scope, and it enacts a participation in Christ in which the sacramentality of all nature is affirmed in proclaiming God’s glory. The question is not so much whether we are to evangelize nature as whether we will allow ourselves to evangelize with nature and to be evangelized by nature”—which already, by biblical testimony, is constantly and copiously praising God.

All told, though we need not deny the place of the market, we must recognize that it does have a place—not as the all-encompassing and all-defining framework of being but as within, limited, and constrained by a surrounding and suffusing social and ecological matrix. Within that matrix, it should serve the rightful and prospering ends of society and all of creation. Its own survival depends on this.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 168-69 (embedded quotation from Stone, Evangelism after Christendom, 220)

<idle musing>
I would add, our survival depends on it as well! Relatedly, see this video of Sandra Richter on what the Old Testament says about creation care (compliments of Jim Eisenbraun).
</idle musing>

Monday, April 04, 2022

Exploitation vs. worship

Human solidarity with all of creation is twofold. First, humans are created by God with all other creatures. Second, humans, like the entirety of creation, are created toward the end of worshipping and praising God. We are creatures alongside other creatures. And those creatures, like us, find their fulfillment in the worship of the God of Israel and Jesus Christ. When we exploit creation, we abuse fellow creatures and coworshippers.

An apocalyptic frame disallows seeing the earth as a wreck from which some human individuals are rescued. Instead, Christ’s apocalyptic work is about the re-creation of the cosmos, human and nonhuman, toward the end that it be in proper relationship with God and its myriad cocreatures and coworshippers. Nor do we correctly understand apocalypse if we imagine creation—except for some lucky humans—being destroyed, consumed in fire. The apocalyptic fire is a purifying and transforming fire, not one of simple destruction. As J. Christiaan Beker puts it, “The apostle [Paul] is not charged with simply pronouncing the end of the world to the world. Rather that charge must be executed in the context of enlarging in this world the domain of God’s coming world because God’s coming world envisages the transformation of the world’s present structures and not simply their dissolution.”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 167–68 (embedded quotation is from Long, Augustinian and Ecclesial, 155, 249–50, emphasis original)

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Late to the party and not dressed for it

And let us note again, it [creation] is constant in its faithfulness and ever eager to praise. Simply by being themselves, all creatures exult in the abundantlife given to them by God. As Karl Barth puts it, nonhuman creatures praise God “along with us or without us. They do it also against us to shame us and instruct us.” By comparison, the human “is only like a late-comer slipping shamefacedly into creation’s choir in heaven and earth, which has never ceased its praise, but merely suffered and sighed, as it still does, that in inconceivable folly and ingratitude its living centre man does not hear its voice, its response, its echoing of the divine glory, or rather hears it in a completely perverted way, and refuses to co-operate in the jubilation which surrounds him."— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 166–67

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Back into bondage

Still, many continue to objectify nature and separate humanity from it. And neoliberals in particular, prone to reinterpret everything in terms of the market, are hard put to see nature as anything other or greater than the provider of “natural resources.” Such demeanor inclines one toward the continued exploitation of nature. The “tragic irony” of liberal and neoliberal capitalism is that the very means through which humans sought liberation from the constraints of nature (i.e., fossil-based fuels) is a threat to human and global survival. The effects of air and water pollution, and preeminently the inescapable climate crisis, press upon us all a reconsideration of our heritage.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 150

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Brutal truth

The early liberal attitude to nature is most famously summarized in the words of the Englishman Francis Bacon, a seventeenth-century philosopher, scientist, and statesman. Bacon not only objectified nature but saw nature as an object to be brutally interrogated and raped. So the scientist “must force the apparent facts of nature into forms different to those in which they familiarly present themselves; and thus make them tell the truth about themselves, as torture may compel an unwilling witness to reveal what he has been concealing.” Another line, with which feminists have had a field day, advised that “man” should “make no scruple” of “penetrating into [nature’s] holes and corners, when the inquisition of truth is his sole object.” As Sheldon Wolin encapsulates it, nature for Bacon was “an object of organized assault.”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 148

Monday, March 28, 2022

Exploit it! (But at what cost?)

Both those now commonly designated “liberals” and those designated “conservatives” have roots in a historical, encompassing liberalism. As such, attitudes toward nature—or what I would prefer to call creation—are widely shared across today’s partisan political lines. “Liberals” and “conservatives” alike have a heritage of humanity separated from the rest of nature and the reduction of nature to a mere source of “natural resources” to be reaped for human gain.

Karl Polanyi, writing in the mid-twentieth century, warned against the liberal propensity to reduce land to a commodity. Land, he protested, becomes “only another name for nature, which is not produced by man.” Such a reduction is in fact “entirely fictitious” But this fiction determined a world picture that set up liberal humanity to exploit land and nature—now, we see in an age of climate crisis—to our own detriment.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 147–48

Friday, March 25, 2022

Subject to futlility

The antithesis between the “church” and the “world,” which is certainly a Pauline and Johannine motif, here needs to be carefully understood. The “world,” in these terms, should not be understood as synonymous with creation. Creation is triply sanctified in the Christian story: all has been created good; Christ’s incarnation blesses all material, fleshly reality; and Christ’s bodily resurrection and ascension take transformed physical creation into heaven, beside the very throne of God. Moreover, the cosmic order, in Paul’s thought, is not sinful. It has been subjected to the futility of death through humanity’s sinfulness, not its own, and is destined for apocalyptic liberation (Rom 5:l2–2l; 8:l8—27).— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 143

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

But how?

For Christian engagement with the world, then, patriotically and otherwise, the key word is judiciousness, and the methods are ad hoc. The engagement is often messy, constantly concerned with particulars, and always ongoing. It is open to the neighbor (and even the enemy), whom Christ calls us to love. Accordingly, the church’s neighbor love “does not enter through abstract declarations of "loving everyone" but starts by singling out the neighbor that appears alien to me, the neighbor whom I love in the midst of her obvious differences. It is with this neighbor that a more general love can start. This kind of neighbor love is intrusive and subversive to neoliberal ways of relating and being, as an individual must encounter her neighbor on the neighbor’s own terms. To love this way is an affront to the exchange logic and value within neoliberalism because this kind of neighbor love makes no demand to reciprocate.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 137 (emphasis original)

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Where then the motherland?

The point, in short, is that though I firmly reject the messianic, militaristic nationalism sketched earlier, I do not disavow a judicious, chastened patriotism. For the Christian, such patriotism is secondary in terms of identity. Baptism and citizenship in heaven trump citizenship in the nation-state. The Nicene Creed is the Christian’s ultimate pledge of allegiance. The cross and not the flag is the preeminent symbol of identification. The church is first family. God’s economy is wider [and] deeper than the neoliberal economy.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 135

<idle musing>
He's more willing than I to acknowledge the place of patriotism, however chastened. The problem as I see it from my experience is that patriotism too easily morphs into nationalism. The flag isn't content to take second place; it will continue to try to sneak into first place. Unless you are continually on your guard, you will find it once again on the throne.

Mind you, it isn't just patriotism, though. Anything around you wants to throw God off the throne. Think 1 John, the lust of the eyes, etc. That's why we are called to "fix our eyes on Jesus." If we concentrate on him, everything else finds its proper place in our lives. But, if we fix our eyes/desires on anything else, our priorities will become disordered.

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, March 14, 2022

Grasping for Control

Thus [Luke] Bretherton insists that Christians, living in the time between the times, “do not have to establish regimes to control the time so as to determine the outcome of history. Rather, they can live without control because the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ already inaugurated the fulfillment of history, even as its consummation awaits Christ’s return.… Christians are to cultivate forms of life in this age that bear witness to these eschatological possibilities even as they stand in solidarity with those still suffering.” In doing so, the church looks to Jesus as a model of servant power: “To modern eyes, Jesus’s ministry can look like a refusal of power. But it is better seen as a refusal of the spectacular but vacuous power that Satan offers [at the temptation in the wilderness]. It is also a refusal to exercise the unilateral, coercive power of institutionalized means of command and control (power over). But in refusing power over, Jesus affirms relational power (power with).”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 130, citing Bretherton, Christ and the Common Life, 136 and 132

Friday, March 11, 2022

New book coming out on Greek Prepositions

William Ross has the great news. The book from his and Steve Runge's Tyndale Workshop on Greek prepositions is going to be out in November:
Postclassical Greek Prepositions and Conceptual Metaphor: Cognitive Semantic Analysis and Biblical Interpretation.
Edited by: William A. Ross and Steven E. Runge
Volume 12 in the series Fontes et Subsidia ad Bibliam pertinentes
Heres the description:
Traditional semantic description of Ancient Greek prepositions has struggled to synthesize the varied and seemingly arbitrary uses into something other than a disparate, sometimes overlapping list of senses. The Cognitive Linguistic approach of prototype theory holds that the meanings of a preposition are better explained as a semantic network of related senses that radially extend from a primary, spatial sense. These radial extensions arise from contextual factors that affect the metaphorical representation of the spatial scene that is profiled. Building upon the Cognitive Linguistic descriptions of Bortone (2009) and Luraghi (2009), linguists, biblical scholars, and Greek lexicographers apply these developments to offer more in-depth descriptions of select postclassical Greek prepositions and consider the exegetical and lexicographical implications of these findings. This volume will be of interest to those studying or researching the Greek of the New Testament seeking more linguistically-informed description of prepositional semantics, particularly with a focus on the exegetical implications of choice among seemingly similar prepositions in Greek and the challenges of potentially mismatched translation into English.

Uses latest Cognitive Linguistic theory for lexical semantic analysis

Builds upon well-accepted but still underdeveloped language scholarship in Classical Greek Gives attention to practical implications for textual interpretation of the Bible

I admit to being highly biased (I copyedited the volume), but this is a great book! I look forward to getting my copy (hopefully I won't find any errors in it!).

Citing NABU

This is more for my personal reference than anything, so I don't need to search through a million email records to find it. If you find it useful, great.

Nouvelles Assyriologiques Breves et Utilitaires (NABU) is a periodical that publishes short notes (as the title says) four times a year. I've found it cited at least four or five different ways. A few years ago, I consulted SBL about how they recommended citing it. Because I can never remember how or where the email response is filed, I'm putting it here.

Obviously, you need to add NABU to the abbreviations list. Then cite it as Author. "Article title." NABU year.issue: pages, no. ###. E.g.,
Peker, Hasan. “Some Remarks on the Imperial Hittite Sealings from the 2017 Excavations at Karkemish.” NABU 2017.4:178–79, no. 101.

Some presses want you to include a link as well. In this case it is https://sepoa.fr/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/NABU-_2017-4_DEF.pdf.

It would be really nice if NABU would start using DOIs, but meanwhile, we need to do it the long way.

Table of Contents for copyediting stuff.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The "sacrifice" of war

Accordingly, we commonly say that in war, we “sacrifice” our sons and daughters. Taken at all seriously, this amounts to child sacrifice—a practice common to some ancient religions but considered outmoded in modern civilization. Discomforting as talk of child sacrifice may be, we do not usually admit another religious aspect of our wars. For no nation sets out to lose a war, to simply sacrifice its children. Wars are fought to be won. The point is not to die but to kill. To that end, our soldiers are commissioned with priestly power: the power to purify the world of our enemies. In short, soldiers are preeminently not to be sacrificed but, like priests, to enact or commit sacrifice—the sacrifice of the enemy other. We thrust upon our soldiers the godlike power to kill, to decide who lives and who dies.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 123–24

<idle musing>
And then we wonder why they come home with PTSD…
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

The glory of war?

As the early twentieth-century cultural critic Randolph Bourne memorably remarked, “War is the health of the State.” Nothing unites the atomized citizens of liberal and neoliberal states like war. Soldiers give themselves for a higher cause, while citizens back home may forgo some degree of comfort on behalf of the “war effort.” The usually disconnected, competing, and even hostile individuals coalesce against a common enemy.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 123

<idle musing>
And we're seeing that right now, aren't we? But how long will it last? It's not built on a solid foundation, so it will slide away.
</idle musing>

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Christian nationalism has a history

Nationalism has been entangled with religion—or has served more or less directly as a religion—from its beginnings. Early nationalisms were syncretized with the Bible. In 1719, Isaac Watts translated the Psalms, replacing the word Israel repeatedly with Great Britain. Disillusioned English settlers in America aimed at creating the “true Israel of God” and considered themselves “God’s peculiar people” led into the wilderness to expand and reform “England, God’s Israel.” The earliest known use of the English term nationalism was in the mid-nineteenth century, referring to the divine election of a nation (other than ancient Israel).

In our time, a powerful distillation of this nationalism is found in Peter Marshall and David Manuel’s The Light and the Glory, first published in 1977 and most recently in a revised and expanded edition in 2009. More than a million copies of the book have been sold, and it has been widely used in private Christian schools and Christian home schools.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 117

<idle musing>
I tried to read The Light and the Glory back in 1977. I couldn't get past the secodn chapter, it was so flawed. I pointed out the errors to the person that loaned the book to me, but they seemed uninterested in the errors, claiming that the "truth" of the book was greater than the facts. Huh? How can that be?

That was my first exposure to "Christian" nationalism. And I've been running from it ever since!
</idle musing>

Monday, March 07, 2022

Your vision is too small

New creation has arrived [Galatians], though it is not yet fully manifested. In it, the capacious economy of God has been revealed. Beside it, the neo-liberal economy is puny and constricted. The market as a gigantic information processor cannot and does not contain or process care for the weak and the “loser”—in a word, mercy—or care for creation or nature as a good in itself. It does not embrace community, covenant love, grace, or miracle. In the economy of God, all of these realities live. And they can thrive.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 113–14

Friday, March 04, 2022

The lust of the eyes

In light of the apocalypse, the church can at least be honest about the shortcomings of neoliberal capitalism. As Hart writes, “It eventuates in a culture of consumerism, because it must cultivate a social habit of consumption extravagantly in excess of mere natural need or even (arguably) natural want. It is not enough to satisfy natural desires; a capitalist culture must ceaselessly seek to fabricate new desires, through appeals to what 1 John calls ‘the lust of the eyes.”’ Furthermore, “A capitalist society not only tolerates, but positively requires, the existence of a pauper class, not only as a reserve of labor value, but also because capitalism relies on a stable credit economy, and a credit economy requires a certain perennial supply of perennial debtors. . . . The perpetual insolvency of the working poor and lower middle class is an inexhaustible font of profits for the institutions upon which the investment class depends.”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 111

<idle musing>
I recall hearing the story of a US company opening a factory in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the end of the first month, the workers received their check and didn't come back to work. When asked why not, they replied they had earned more than enough for the rest of the year. At a loss, the company brainstormed how to get them to work. One brilliant person suggested giving them a Sears catalog. After looking at all the bobbles and bits in the catalog, the workers not only came back, but asked for overtime in order to obtain what a few months before they didn't even know existed.

Basically, they ruined their lives. I don't know if the story is true, but it rings true. The first time I heard it, I wept inside and asked God's forgiveness on behalf of the US's blatant sin toward those people.
</idle musing>

Thursday, March 03, 2022

What are you afraid of? That your theology might be defective?

“Simply said, ” David Bentley Hart observes, “the earliest Christians were communists . . . , not as an accident of history but as an imperative of faith.” And if time and circumstances meant that not all subsequent Christians evinced communism as fully and intensely as the earliest, a call toward a vision of service to the common good echoed through the patristic period, founded on a truth taught by Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose of Milan, and John Chrysostom: “The goods of creation belong equally to all, and that immense private wealth is theft—bread stolen from the hungry, clothing stolen from the naked, money stolen from the destitute.”

Nor did such hopes, dreams, and practices cease with the patristic age. We can think of monasticism and mendicancy as well as such present-day movements as the Catholic Workers, the Bruderhof and the (usually Protestant) New Monastics. Such “purist” movements have great value and pertinence, as does the less “purist” yet still significant giving in face of need—serving at soup kitchens and homeless shelters, donating cars and groceries—that happens day to day and week to week in ordinary urban, suburban, and rural churches.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 109–10

<idle musing>
I recall when I was (much) younger and the threat of world Marxism (called Communism, with an upper case C) was a very real threat. The attempts by the Western church to rewrite the early chapters of Acts was almost comical. What were they afraid of? That they might be required to share their wealth?

Just an
</idle musing>

Wednesday, March 02, 2022

and that's guidance?!

At a basic level, the market qua market exhibits moral idiocy This can be confirmed by a walk through the common drugstore. Cigarettes are stocked adjacent to smoking-cessation aids. Diet and weight-loss concoctions sit next to high-calorie snacks and sugar-loaded beverages. Fertility pills are down the aisle from contraceptives. In actual practice, no sane consumer can be or is guided simply and solely by the market.

Speaking at an equally basic level, every minimally working human economy has a strong, underlying communistic dimension. At first blush, this may sound shocking and revolting. But think not of state-directed and state-compulsory communism, as in the Soviet Union and China, which are indeed revolting. Think instead of consanguineous family, where all goods are shared in common. Think of close friendships or tightly knit neighborhoods, where snowblowers and mowers and tools are freely passed back and forth, or a hand is lent with moving house or barn building. Think of bystanders rushing to help a child who has fallen onto subway tracks. Think of the aftermath of natural disasters such as storms, fires, blackouts, or an economic collapse, where each gives of their ability to each according to their needs. Then, often if not always, people resort to a “rough-and-ready communism.”— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 108

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Character Styles in Word for Mac 2019

This post is mainly for my own benefit, as I will likely forget this. If you find it helpful, great.

As a copyeditor, I am sometimes asked to apply styles to a document I'm editing. And, I have to admit that there are two things that Word for Mac 2019 does fairly well: R-to-L Hebrew (finally!) and the Styles pane.

But, character styles are a different matter. There is no good tutorial that I could find out there, which is why I'm writing this: to attempt to fill in the gaping hole.

The impetus for this comes from my most recent job, which requires character styles on all the Greek for typesetting purposes. Different presses handle this differently. For example, SBL Press asks you to set all Greek to SBL Greek and all Hebrew to SBL Hebrew. They then use macros to transform that in their typesetting process. The press I'm doing the current book for uses character styles. I've used character styles in Word for Mac before, but recently was forced to migrate to Word for Mac 2019 because the older version was only 32-bit. Things aren't as obvious as I would wish. So, let's begin…

Select the word/character you want to create a style for. In my case it was a Greek word, set in GraecaU, 11 point. Then, click on Format on the top and select Styles (see graphic below)

Click on New, and type in the name you want to call the style. I used Greek for obvious reasons. Change the Style type to Character, basing the style on the Default Paragraph Font. Note the "a" with an underline; that means it is a character style. You can see all the characteristics it inherits in the box. If you want to change the font size and style, you can do so, but I find it easiest to change them before I create the style, that way you can just accept it.

I click both Add to template and Add to Quick Style List, just to keep it handy. Then click OK and Apply. On the right-hand side of Word's Home ribbon, there's a Styles Pane button. Click it and the styles will appear on the right hand column of your document; adjust the size of your document so you can see the Style pane as your document easily.

Now, highlight the next word(s) you want to apply the style to, click on Greek, and, "Voilà!" it's in the correct font and the style will be there for the typesetter. See below, before:

And after:

And that's it! Of course, if you don't want to have the style pane open, or don't have room for it on your screen, you can create a keyboard shortcut for it, but that's another story. I have multiples of those for various fonts, formatting, etc. Maybe someday I'll go into that, but this has already eaten up too much of my time today—hopefully it will save you (and me in the future when I forget) a great deal of time!

Here's a list of all copyediting posts.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The cheapening of marriage

Neoliberal capitalism inhibits the Christian practice of marriage and family because the market has overrun its boundaries. We face a belligerent bottom line that invades all aspects or spheres of our existence. We are coached to see not just the bartering of bread and soap but the whole of our lives in the ways of the market. We too easily fall into neoliberal economistic language that reconceives family practices and relationships. We speak of children presenting “time demands.” Spouses should “invest” in one another to “promote” intimacy, or their marriage may become unproductive.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 102

Monday, February 21, 2022

Contract versus covenant

Neoliberal contractualism is hemmed about by qualifications; its form of marriage is enamored of contractual arrangements such as no-fault divorce and prenuptial agreements. Whereas covenantal marriage aims at a union of selves, contractualism aims only at a union of interests. It promises faithfulness only so long as one (or both) parties do not find a “better” option. It hedges its bets and is based on careful and ongoing calculation. For neoliberalism, with contractualism and competition at its roots, enduring trust is decidedly not a premium. And what is true here of neoliberal marriage is true of its wider economy: the “suzerains” that are neoliberal employers owe no fidelity to their workers or “vassals,” who are fungible and disposable.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 103

<idle musing>
Almost diametrically opposed ot the biblical view, isn't it? The Bible says we are made in the image of God and have inherent value. Neoliberalism says we are merely an "asset" to be exploited and then disposed of.

Let's call it what it is: Sin!
</idle musing>

Friday, February 18, 2022

What kind of god?

Note well that this covenant fidelity of Yahweh represents a particular kind of divinity. The Greek gods, after all, put no premium on fidelity to their people. Pagan divinity in general is not so much to be trusted as outwitted and manipulated. But fidelity is a key mark of the God revealed to Israel and the church—the God who chose, finally, to answer human betrayal with the cross rather than a flood of destruction. And so if we are to live in the light of this, the true divinity, we must strive to become the kind of people who practice at least enough covenant faithfulness to know what it looks like. Christians live lives of fidelity in order to become people who can learn to recognize the God of enduring faithfulness, the God of Israel and Jesus Christ.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 101

Thursday, February 17, 2022

This is evil!!

The Maryland court blocked the library ebooks law from going into effect, claiming that it violated copyright protection.

Now, that might be, and by itself wouldn't have riled me. But, the very next sentence in the Publishers Weekly Daily eletter says this: "Hachette Book Group parent company Lagardère saw record gains last year, with HBG up as well even discounting its purchase of Workman Publishing."

And they aren't the only publishing company setting records for profit and sales!

But, they won't let the libraries have ebooks at a fair price (the pricing to libraries is definitely ridiculous and gouging) or in a timely manner. Why? Because it might damage their record profits. It would be different if they weren't making tons of cash and paying their executives sinfully extravagent salaries and bonuses (all the while paying their rank and file workers scandalously low wages and exploiting them). But they aren't.

Copyright is to protect the rights to make a fair profit for authors and publishers. It is an attempt to balance the rights of producers and consumers. But, the balance of late is far too much in favor of the corporate producer (not most authors, mind you) at the expense of the consumer.

Just an
</idle musing>

Contract or Covenant? It matters

Contract is the fundamental basis of the neoliberal economy (and of a liberal economy more generally). A contract is a punctual agreement enacted between two parties, for a set period, and under specified conditions. Contracts, and contracting parties, are calculating and careful. Their trust and fidelity, such as they are, intend to serve the immediate interests of the contracting parties—and do not extend beyond the terms of the contract. In other words, the relationships they establish are limited and completely conditional.

Though Christians certainly participate in this contractual economy, it is not their ultimate economy. The church as first family is the oikos grounded in God’s encompassing economy. It works most fundamentally by way of covenant rather than contract. It is about establishing and maintaining deep, full, thoroughly faithful, long-term, and open-ended relationships.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 100–101

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Scapegoating again

There's an article on Bicycling Magazine's website, entitled "Cars Kill. Bike Helmets Don’t Change That." It's really about more than that, though. It's about how we assign blame so we don't have to change anything. Read the whole thing for more, but here's a good takeaway paragraph:
Studies show that the simple act of finding someone to blame in an accident makes people less likely to see systemic problems or seek systemic changes. One [study] prompted subjects with news stories about a wide variety of accidents: financial mistakes, plane crashes, industrial disasters. When the story blamed human error, subjects were more intent on punishment and less likely to question the built environment or seek investigation of organizations behind the accident. No matter the accident, blame took the place of prevention.
<idle musing>
As a pedestrian and bicyclist, I know that the odds are that if I get hit, I'm in serious trouble. I've already experienced that once and don't want it to happen again. But, why is it always the victim that is blamed?

And I don't mean just in auto-pedestrian and auto-bicyclist accidents. What about sexual misconduct cases? There's a lot of victim-blaming going on there, too.

Why?

Because it's a whole lot easier and cleaner to blame somebody than to face the fact that the system is broken.

But it is! Culture is broken. It's worshiping the wrong gods: Money, sex, and power.

It's the same gods that have always been worshiped, just wearing different clothes now.

Just an
</idle musing>

Yes, unconditional, but…

Compare again human parents and children. Parents can love unconditionally, never withdrawing their final and ongoing commitment to their children. But especially in relation to younger children, parents do know what is best mediately and in the long term, and not just immediately. Thus loving parents, not least unconditionally loving parents, do harbor moral expectations and make stipulations—and yes, on occasion, even commands—to their children. At their best and in all circumstances, what such parents hope for is the eventual and enduring flourishing, if not the immediate appeasement, of their children.

Similarly, God’s covenant love is unconditional. But it aims to sustain a substantial and long-term relationship, so it includes what might be considered “conditional” elements. As Levenson says, “It is unconditional in that the love comes into, and remains, in force even when nothing has been done to deserve it. . . . But the relationship is also conditional in that it involves expectations and stipulations, and suffers and turns sour if they are not met.” (Levinson, Love of God, 62)— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 100

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

What's the foundation?

Accordingly, in the biblical world, covenant was not made just or primarily on the basis of blood. To be a son or daughter was first of all, in Hebrew thought, to be obedient, not to indicate biological descent. Israel’s election as the “children of God” entailed obedience (Deut l3:17–l4:2). If Israel disobeyed, God might spurn “his sons and daughters” (Deut 32:l9—20), sell them into slavery (Isa 50:l), and declare them no longer God’s people (Hos 1:9). It is likely in this spirit, a covenant spirit, that Jesus turned away from his consanguineous mother and siblings and declared instead, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:31-35). Jesus’s primary family, in this sense, is composed not of those who share his genetic makeup but of those who share his obedient spirit.

At the same time, such remarks must be kept in tension with an underlying unconditional quality about covenant. Though Israel (and later the church) repeatedly fails and betrays its Lord in what the prophets portray as adulterous liaisons with other gods, Yahweh shows a determination to never give up or turn God’s back on his people. The romance between God and his people is stormy and too often ruptures.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 98–99

Monday, February 14, 2022

That's a different take on hospitality

Meanwhile, married Christians bear children to witness to the church’s conviction that God has not given up and will not give up on God’s creation. Christians have children because they believe the world has a future. And they have children to witness to and practice hospitality, for no strangers can challenge us so much as the intimate strangers we call children.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 97

<idle musing>
While I can't say I disagree with what he says about children being strangers, I'm not sure I would have put it that way! But he is definitely correct that given the state of the world and its future, it takes faith to bring children into it.
</idle musing>

Friday, February 11, 2022

Freedom? Or bondage masquerading as freedom?

Finally, as regards positive freedom, a word about capacitation or enablement. In the thrall of sin and death, we are not free to love God, to love creation, to love others, or even to love ourselves rightly. We are dead in the condition of sin, and only God’g Word and God’s Spirit can raise us to life and fulsome agency. Resurrection, I have said, is exclusively God’s business, so it is only in the Spirit that we are freed for love in all its forms and directions. Through Word and Spirit, we are enabled and given the capacity to love.

Consider an alcoholic turned loose in a liquor store and given free rein to drink whatever and as much as he would like. He has full, but only negative, freedom, in that he is not forbidden any bottle in the store. But he is a slave to his impulses or compulsion. As Alcoholics Anonymous would have it, he needs a “higher power” for true freedom, the freedom not to drink but to live free of bondage and addiction.

Likewise, we are all addicted to sin. It is the Holy Spirit that can give us the capacity not to sin. Our final and fullest freedom, as Augustine would have it, is the freedom not even to be able to sin, but only to love. This is freedom for—freedom for love of God, of creation, of others, and truly of ourselves. Such freedom is what the apocalyptic gospel promises.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 85

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Let those who have ears…

“Cursed is anyone who obstructs the legal rights of immigrants, orphans, or widows.” Deut 27:19 (CEB)

Let those who have ears to hear, hear (and in Hebrew, "hear" means more than just listen; it means to act on what you hear).

Monday, February 07, 2022

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Why do I read?

I read a post today at the Scholarly Kitchen that triggered some thoughts, not directly related to that post.

Why do people read?

I'm sure there are as many reasons as there are people. But generally, I would say people read for information. Why read directions? Why read traffic signs? (Granted, that's not generally categorized as "reading" in the same way one reads a book or article.) Why read a newspaper/magazine (paper or online version)?

Mainly for information, to feel informed; whether one is or not is another question, depending on the source and the reader's ability to comprehend what is written.

But people also read for entertainment. Why read fiction? Generally to be entertained, unless, of course it is an assigned reading!

But, why else do people read?

Thinking about it, I read for all of the above, but more deeply, I read for character formation. I try to weigh carefully what I intake in the form of media in general, and reading in particular, with a thought to how it will form my character.

We don't realize it most of the time, but what we read (or watch) has a strong impact on who we are and who we are becoming. Even, and I would say especially, fiction. Our guard is down more when we read fiction, so we are more easily influenced without realizing it.

But, nonfiction influences who we are, too. Why do people feel so depressed after doom-scrolling their Twitter/Facebook/RSS/whatever feed? What they read is forming them, whether they realize it or not.

I periodically purge my RSS feed because I tend to subscribe too freely to things that pique my interest. Frequently, after a month or two, I find that what I'm reading on a particular site is having a negative affect on who I want to become, so I purge it. I think that's healthy. I don't want to become closed-minded, so I explore. But, I also want to become someone who reflects Jesus more clearly, so I need to prune some of those explorations.

And that is where discernment comes in. It's too easy to purge something because it makes you uncomfortable. It's also too easy to keep subscribing because it confirms what you want to believe (confirmation bias).

May God grant us wisdom in what we read!

Just an
</idle musing>

Friday, January 28, 2022

New blog!

Jim Eisenbrauns has started a blog! It's called The Almond Branch. The first post is a review of the first two chapters of the book that I'm reading right now and posting excerpts from (and he's the one who gave me the book).

Add it to your RSS feeder or subscribe via email. Having know Jim for nearly twenty years now, I know it will be worth your time.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Bankrupt!

Capitalism has been premised on the assumption of infinite growth and ever-rising consumption. In a clearly finite and much-exhausted world, this assumption no longer makes sense. For many, it is clear that we should seek a less heedless, more modest, and sustainable way of life—one that does not simply exploit and plunder nature but recognizes that we are all a part of a web of life that includes the atmosphere, soil, plants, animals, and humans. Neoliberalism, only and always revving for more market rapaciousness and expansion, has nothing to offer in this regard.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 56

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

It's coming, as sure as sunrise, just ask Amos

If these conditions leave us pitted against coworkers, neoliberal capitalism will certainly allow for little amity between white-collar workers and employers: “Across the board, measures taken by finance-disciplined corporations to maximize profitability prevent workers and employers from profiting together. Thus, even when making outsized profits, corporations cannot risk sharing them with employees by raising wages. Doing so would only cut into company profit margins and thereby threaten the price of company stock.” (Tanner, Christianity and the New Spirit, 178–79, cited in Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 51)

<idle musing>
Of course the irony of this situation is that they don't hesitate to hand out multimillion dollar bonuses and raises to the people at the top—usually white males.

Take those bonuses and that ridiculous salary and divide it among the people who actually do the work. Read James 5 and all of Amos—especially Amos 5:24—and then act accordingly.

Every employee should receive the same benefit package that the CEO does; every American should receive the same healthcare package that a Congress person does. Until that time, any claims at equality are just theater.

Just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Are you a loser?

And what to do with the “losers”? They are deemed disposables (and remember, we are all ultimately disposable under neoliberalism). And so we see poor folk—especially poor folk of color—killed by police without consequence. We see postindustrial communities no longer deemed valuable by state governments and left without clean, safe drinking water, as in Flint, Michigan. We see poor youth abandoned without affordable and excellent education. We see refugees forced to flee their homes by war or social and economic collapse but rejected at the border or forced to languish in refugee camps. We see undocumented workers exploited but reviled for supposedly taking away jobs from “real” and “good” citizens.

And we see millions of people—again, disproportionately poor and of color—confronted by (increasingly militarized) police forces and flung into (increasingly privatized) prisons. Given historical and structural racism, poor people of color start the neoliberal race with the least advantage and so are likely to fall behind fastest and furthest. To cope with the armies of the most dramatically dispossessed, neoliberalism has developed a “criminal industrial complex.” The War on Drugs, for example, has been waged especially vigorously against poor people of color. Initiated by President Richard Nixon, the War on Drugs was rooted in the soil of racism. H. R. Haldeman, onetime assistant to Nixon,commented that the president “emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem really is the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while appearing not to.”(Duggan, Twilight of Equality?, 18)— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 49–50

Friday, January 21, 2022

Call it what it is!

More darkly, this acting easily blurs into con artistry. For example, service workers are coached and trained to cunningly deploy their own pleasant affect to maximize sales (and tips). Any “real” feeling that remains is often distant and diluted. In on the game as we all are, we become suspicious of those treating us with respect and affection; they may only be conducting a scam, we may only or mainly be objects of manipulation and exploitation. So the already frayed social fabric suffers further tears.

More darkly yet, when entrepreneurialism becomes the essence (such as it is) of the self and is always in the service of selling itself, we come perilously close to something that may most honestly—and realistically—be called prostitution. What, after all, is prostitution except the successful presentation of an attractive body for sale? And what is the entrepreneurial self if not body and soul totally enlisted in an unending hustle, the next sale?— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 47

Thursday, January 20, 2022

The real cause

Excessive inequality erodes democracy and strains to bursting the social fabric. It raises stressful questions about injustice and does violence to any notion of shared citizenship. It batters all sense of common belonging or that there might be any such thing as a common good. The competitiveness of the marketplace, unchecked, pits Americans against Americans and goes a long way toward explaining why the country is now so divided and riven. Unfortunately, division and hostility are often misidentified or misdirected against immigrants or those of other races. What goes unnamed is the neoliberal framework that entraps us all.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 43

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

This is not something to be proud of!

Overall, what we can now boast of is an economy that in its inequality compares to that of ancient Rome. It has been estimated that the top four hundred taxpayers in the United States exercise ten thousand times the material power of the average citizen in the bottom 90 percent. This differs little from the gap between Roman senators and the slaves and farm laborers who comprised most of the population.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 43

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Really? How can you justify this?

Dwell for a moment on the take-home of American CEOs compared to that of rank-and-file employees. In 2018, the average chief executive of an S&P 500 company earned 287 times more than their median employee. Elon Musk made 40,668 times more money than the median Tesla employee. But we need not focus on the extreme of the extremes. Since so many employees are found in retail and food service, we might consider the pay ratios of executives to that of their median worker of Gap clothing (3,566 to l) or McDonald’s (2,124 to 1). Does a Gap executive, however brilliant or hardworking, really do 3,566 times the work of a median-level employee? What wonders must the McDonald’s CEO work to genuinely earn (i.e., deserve) 2,124 times his frontline cooks and cashiers? And has the CEOs’ reasonable value actually increased nearly tenfold since 1970, when the median ratio of executive compensation was 30 to 1.— Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age, 42

<idle musing>
Let's call it what it is: Sinful greed. Let's put that into a bit more perspective: The CEO of McDonalds makes as much in an hour as the line worker makes in a year—provided they are given 40 hours/week, which may or may not be the case. And the CEO has a full benefits package of retirement, insurance, and all the other perks. The line worker? Right! Fat chance.

James, the brother of Jesus has a word for them:

"Pay attention, you wealthy people! Weep and moan over the miseries coming upon you. Your riches have rotted. Moths have destroyed your clothes. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you. It will eat your flesh like fire. Consider the treasure you have hoarded in the last days. Listen! Hear the cries of the wages of your field hands. These are the wages you stole from those who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of heavenly forces. You have lived a self-satisfying life on this earth, a life of luxury. You have stuffed your hearts in preparation for the day of slaughter. (James 5:1–5 CEB)
</idle musing>