Thursday, September 29, 2022

Both and

Most thoughtful Christians, reflecting on the biblical story, would say that God’s purpose for creation is both to display his glory and to display his love. However, inquiring minds tend to move in one direction or the other—as the controlling or main purpose. Those in the Augustinian-Calvinist tradition tend to read Scripture as emphasizing God’s glory and power and the world as the place for displaying them. The result can be an interpretation of everything in the world, even evil, as purposed by God for his glory. Those in the Arminian-Wesleyan tradition (and also going back to the Greek church fathers before Augustine!) tend to read Scripture as emphasizing God’s love and desire for relationship and the world as the place for experiencing them. The result can be a softening of God’s lordship and a sentimentalizing of God as needing the world for his own fulfillment. The solution, of course, is to hold the two purposes of God in creation together in tension.The Essentials of Christian Thought, 192 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I tend (who am I kidding—I do!) read scripture through the Wesleyan-Arminian lens. But, I don't soften God's lordship! God created the world because he wanted to, not because of any need on his part!

And, the fact that prior to Augustine's arguments w/Pelagius, no church father (or mother) read it through a predestinarian lens just confirms in my mind that it is the correct one. But that's just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Stop it!

And God intends to liberate the world from this “bondage to decay,” which is evidence of God’s continuing care for creation. In the meantime, humans live out their likeness to God by having dominion over the world, which means nurturing it, not dominating and exploiting it. The ecological crisis, insofar as it is humankind’s doing, which science indicates it is, is a violation of the ethical implications of the biblical narrative even if caused partly by Christians. Christianity itself, understood as what the Bible reveals about God and the world, forbids rape of the environment.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 189

Monday, September 26, 2022

But don't worship it!

Ethically, then, the point of the creation story of Genesis and the entire Bible’s witness is the call to care for God is good creation while avoiding worshiping it. Idolatry is a major theme of the biblical narrative; it is the very root of sin and evil—setting creation or some part of creation up as God and worshiping it is wrong because God alone is Lord and creation belongs to him. At the same time, denigrating nature or any part of it as evil and/or exploiting it is wrong because it belongs to God and caring for it is part of what it means to be human.—The Essentials of Christian Thought 188 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
And this is the flipside of Friday's post. We don't exploit, but we don't worship creation either. We are stewards, called to care for it.
</idle musing>

Friday, September 23, 2022

Stop the exploitation!

God’s assignment of the human to have dominion never hints at permission to exploit, let alone ruin, nature; it remains part of the “image and likeness of God” and there is a call to care for creation and be God’s created cocreator in restoring it to its original intention.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 188

<idle musing>
Indeed. I have never understood the mindset that thinks that because it is all going to go up in smoke anyway, let's assist in the destruction. From the time I was young, I was taught to conserve nature, to treat it with respect, to leave things better than I found them.
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 22, 2022

And the greatest of these is…

All of this presupposes something that sets biblical-Christian metaphysics radically apart from other belief systems about ultimate reality. Tresmontant stated it most concisely: “Christianity is a metaphysic of love." This is something speculative reason alone cannot know about ultimate reality—that its very being is love. And this is the reason behind and Within God’s self-limitations, self-determinations, and self—actualizations: God’s being as being-for-others. Does that mean, then, that God must create to have “others” to love? Not at all. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, itself rooted in biblical narrative, even necessitated by it, means that God’s creative activity, including his self-limitations in relation to creatures, is a free expression of the fullness of the love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternity. If God were not triune, however, then creation would be necessary for God insofar as God is conceived as love.—The Essentials of Christian Thought 169 (emphasis original)

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

So, can God really change his mind?

Classical Christian theism, born in the cauldron of philosophized Christianity in the second and third centuries in the Roman Empire, reached its zenith in Anselm and Aquinas. Aquinas agreed that God, being absolute and ultimate in terms of reality, cannot change in any way and therefore cannot suffer—including feeling emotions such as compassion and sympathy. But classical Christian theism is not limited to early or medieval Christian thought; it still has its defenders in the twenty—first century in spite of being embattled. Very few Christian theologians except out-and-out liberal Protestants (e.g., process theologians) reject classical Christian theism entirely. Rather, following Dorner—a pioneer in attempting to return the Christian doctrine of God to biblical thought, separating it from Greek metaphysics that conflicts with that——many simply want to adjust Christian metaphysics “back to the Bible.” Most, this writer included, gladly affirm broad areas of agreement between the best of Greek philosophical theology and biblical revelation of God. At the same time, however, together with Dorner, Brunner, Cherbonnier, and other Christian critics of classical theism, I believe it important to base Christian metaphysics on the biblical narrative and not allow Greek or any other metaphysical thought to draw it away into extrabiblical speculation.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 132

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

What do you believe?

The biblical narrative holds within itself an original, organic, synoptic worldview that answers life’s ultimate questions differently than numerous alternatives—most of which are still swimming around in our pluralistic culture and too often being soaked in by Christians and inappropriately mixed and mingled eclectically with their own native, biblical—Christian worldview.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 82

<idle musing>
This is the foundational thesis of the book: There is a biblical metaphysic, and it is discernable. And that biblical metaphysic does not align with most secular metaphysics. Despite the fact that most Christians seem to think they can adopt whatever metaphysic they want, that is not a true Christian metaphysic.

I would say that most US Christians, of whatever variety, are default natualists in their metaphysic. They might say that they believe in God and Christ—they may even pray—but their default way of life betrays them. They don't really expect God to "show up." And when he does, they are surprised.

If you pray and don't expect to see an answer, what does that say about your faith? Or, worse yet, you don't bother because you think it's too trivial for God's attention, what does that say about your faith?

Ponder that as we continue through the book…
</idle musing>

Monday, September 19, 2022

About that unmoved mover of yours…

A most interesting narrative in Isaiah is about God’s responsiveness to a king’s plea to extend his life (chapter 38). God sends the prophet to inform King Hezekiah of his impending death. The king begs God for more years of life and God listens and relents, changing what he decreed would happen, giving Hezekiah fifteen more years to live (38:5). Again, this is often chalked up to anthropomorphic speech by philosophically minded interpreters who bring to the text baggage borrowed from extrabiblical philosophies. According to most extrabiblical metaphysical schemes, ultimate reality cannot be affected by finite beings. Plato’s “Form of the Good,” Aristot1e’s “Unmoved Mover” and “Thought thinking itself,” Hegel’s “Absolute Spirit”—a1l are incapable of changing his (or its) mind in response to events in time, space, and history. But God, the ultimate being, the absolute person of biblical revelation, is intensely personal, self-limiting, and self-determining, and can voluntarily change his mind in response to his covenant partners’ pleas.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 60

<idle musing>
The key here is "self-limiting." God is omnipotent and omniscient (and the other omni-s!), but he willingly self-limits himself to allow his creatures genuine self-determination. Truly amazing!
</idle musing>

Friday, September 16, 2022

It's personal!

The Bible presents a different picture of ultimate reality than extrabiblical, rational, speculative metaphysics. It elevates personhood (as described earlier) to ultimacy: the source of all finite reality, of nature and all it contains, is revealed as irreducibly personal and not just an impersonal (or even suprapersonal) force, power, or principle. Can reason alone establish this? Perhaps not. But one deleterious effect of depicting ultimate reality as impersonal is the demeaning of personal reality, of relationship and community, and a tendency to elevate as “like the ultimate” the isolated, static, unchangeable individual.—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 56

Thursday, September 15, 2022

How do you describe ultimate reality?

I've been reading through Roger Olson's The Essentials of Christian Thought recently. As I said to a friend, it's a good book, but at times a bit redundant, as he wants to make sure his reader understands what he is trying to say. It would make a good introductory text paired with something like The Universe Next Door, a book he references. He also, to his credit, frequently cites Emil Brunner, probably the best twentieth century theologian (as you know if you have been reading this blog for very long, I prefer Brunner and Bonhoeffer to Barth).

I'll be excerpting from the book for the next two to three weeks. Here's the first one:

Nothing could be clearer to the unbiased Bible reader than that it depicts ultimate reality as not a thing or object or mere force or power but as someone who thinks, deliberates, acts, enters into relationships with others, and has freedom to determine himself. And it depicts ultimate reality—that which is beyond appearance, upon which all else depends, the source of all that is—as more than nature, not part of nature, even the author of nature who is free to intervene in it. What words are better suited to describe such an ultimate reality than personal and supernatural—even if they are inadequate and problematic?—The Essentials of Christian Thought, 54 (emphasis original)

Friday, September 09, 2022

Thought for today

This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; but she didn’t help the poor and the needy. (Ezek 16:49 CEB)

Let those who have ears to hear, hear!

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Understatement of the year

Blurb on the back of a massive commentary (700+ pages!) on the Aeneid, book 6:
This is Horsfall's fifth large-scale commentary on the Aeneid, and as his earlier commentaries on books 7, 11, 3, and 2, this is not a commentary aimed at undergraduates.
Yep. I would say that it gives grad students a good run for their money, too!

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Canoe ride!

Four weeks ago, Ryan (our son) and I took my 90-year-old dad for a canoe ride down the Red Cedar River again. Unlike last year, when the water was so low we had to do a few lift-overs, this year the only thing that happened is that Ryan missed seeing a rock and we ended up being turned around and going backward for a bit. Fortunately, it was an isolated rock, not part of a rough water section (which is probably why he missed seeing it!), so no danger.

Here are a couple of pictures.


Ready to go

On the water

Mission accomplished!

That river has many good memories for both my dad and me. We have canoed it countless times over the years, both as a family and as a scout. It's been fun the last two years to canoe it again with him. Besides, it's not every son who can say that he and his 90-year-old dad went for a canoe trip together!

Thought for the day

Your prophets gave you worthless and empty visions.
They didn’t reveal your sin so as to prevent your captivity.
Instead, they showed you worthless and incorrect prophecies. (Lamentation 2:14 CEB)

Let those who have ears to hear…

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Thought for the day

4b “The Lord proclaims: I’m breaking down everything I have built up. I’m digging up that which I have planted—the entire land. 5 You seek great things for yourself, but don’t bother. I’m bringing disaster on all humanity, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.” (Jer 45:4b–5 CEB)

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Gripe

Just a comment: I don't like the new layout of WorldCat. I buries all the important information and makes it more difficult to find the various editions.

Sometimes the old terminal layout approach is better. But, I'm on the losing end of that battle and have been for years.

Sure you will…

5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we fail to do everything that the Lord your God tells us through you. 6 Whether we like it or not, we will obey all that the Lord our God says. We will obey the Lord our God, to whom we’re sending you, so it may go well for us.”

20 You are putting your lives at risk by sending me to the Lord your God, saying, “Pray for us to the Lord our God; tell us everything the Lord our God says, and we’ll do it.” 21 Today I have told you, but you still haven’t obeyed all that the Lord your God has sent me to tell you. 22 So know without a doubt that you will die by war, famine, and disease… (Jer 42:5, 20–22a CEB)

Saturday, August 27, 2022

The enemy of the church

From the forthcoming Kerux commentary on Acts from Kregel (not yet posted on their website):
The great, insidious enemy of the church is not persecution but comfort, not want but plenty, not beatings and arrests but being ignored. It might be difficult for the church in free countries today to imagine the constant anxiety of immanent persecution at any moment in the apostles’ day. Our persecutions will be light in comparison.
<idle musing>
Both points are true: comfort is the enemy, and any persecution is light. The second point needs to be highlighted. Some would have you think that the sky is falling because some small discomfort has to be incurred because you identify w/Christ.

Of course, there is also the sentence that makes me cringe: I've heard people say: "I'm a Christian, so I don't have to do X," where X is something not core to the faith, but core to their comfort in the faith. As if that is a witness to the goodness of God!

The scripture is true: "As it is written: 'God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” (Romans 2:24 NIV, quoting from Isaiah 52:5 LXX)
</idle musing>

Thursday, August 25, 2022

The year of the Jubilee (sort of)

Lots of press, largely negative, about the loan forgiveness plan announced yesterday by the Biben administration. I freely admit to not being an expert, but I agree with John Hawthorne's take, as well as the first look by Bob on Books.

Now, for those of you who whine about your loans being paid by yourself over the course of x years and not getting any forgiveness, let me share my story. I finished classroom work on a PhD in ancient Mediterranean studies in 1988 from the University of Chicago. Even with a full-ride and stipend, I still was the equivalent in today's money of over $100,000 in debt.

I couldn't find a job in my field, so I went back to warehouse work, which is what I had done during college on the breaks (among many other things!). After about three months, I got a job as a warehouse manager making the equivalent of less than $50,000. This is with two kids. We chose for Debbie to be a full-time homemaker. (Several reasons for that, some financial—she would have had to make more than the going wages to cover the overhead—and others because we both felt it was important for our kids to have someone at home for them. We don't regret that decision.)

I consolidated all my loans into a Sallie Mae one that was for thirty years. It took us twenty years to pay off the loan—and the only reason we paid it off that early was because when I got hit by a truck on my bicycle, the insurance settlement gave us an extra $10,000, which we put toward the student loan.

The irony is that up until the time the loan was paid off, I had only worked five years in an area that was related to my college education (Eisenbrauns). BUT—and this is extremely important—the skills I learned in the course of my college education enabled me to excel in the jobs I had. It enabled me to apply critical thinking to problem solving that others were stumped by. It enabled me to look at the entire picture and formulate a plan before just diving in. It enabled me to save the companies I was working for many thousands of dollars. My goal was to save the company double my salary every year in cost-savings—but not by cutting employees wages. In fact, I was always fighting for better wages for my employees, showing management that it was cheaper to pay a higher wage to avoid high turnover than it was to keep rehiring and retraining all the time. (It was an uphill battle…)

Do I wish that the loan forgiveness program had existed back then? Sure. Do I resent the fact that others are "getting off easy"? No.

Is the loan forgiveness plan perfect? No. It has many problems, but as John Hawthorne points out, it's a good start. Now we need to start improving it and taking a serious look at the whole model of higher education, as Bob on Books says.

Face it, our country has a serious problem investing in its infrastructure—people and physical infrastructure. But what else do you expect when the prevailing attitude is that of a couple of grade school kids fighting over something, saying, "Mine! Mine! Mine!"

Just an
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

11 House of Judah! This is what the Lord says:
12 House of David! The Lord proclaims:
Begin each morning by administering justice,
    rescue from their oppressor
        those who have been robbed,
    or else my anger will spread like a wildfire,
        with no one to put it out,
        because of your evil deeds.
13 I am against you,
    you who live in the valley,
        like a rock of the plain,
            declares the Lord,
    and who say, “Who will come down to attack us?
        Who will breach our fortresses?”
14 I will punish you based on what you have done,
    declares the Lord.
I will set your forests on fire;
    the flames will engulf
        everything around you. (Jer 21:11–14 CEB)

<idle musing>
I'm reading through Jeremiah right now, and it is truly amazing how many times he rebukes the Judeans for their conduct. Well, let me reword that. It is amazing how many times he rebukes them for their mistreatment of the most vulnerable: the immigrant, the orphan, the widow, the day-worker (the equivalent of our hourly wage employee). Sure, he takes a few side swipes at the loose sexual morals, but that is a minor theme. Repeatedly, it is the way the most vulnerable are treated that is the focus.

I think it might be time for me to break out Heschel's The Prophets again and reread for the nth time his first chapter. It's a classic and I need to be reminded of it every so often. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy from your local bookstore (under $20) or library (it's in 1819 libraries according to WorldCat).
</idle musing>

Monday, August 22, 2022

Truly counter-cultural

From yesterday's French Press
But the call to counterculture is much more comprehensive. When the world is greedy, you are generous. When the world is cruel, you are kind. When the world is fearful, you are faithful. When the world is proud, you are humble. How do you know we’re Christian, by our love.

Yes, we say. Yes to all of this. Right until the moment when we think that our kindness, our faithfulness, or our humility carries with it a concrete political cost. We think we know what’s just, and we can’t do justice without power.

And so, in our arrogance, we think we know better than God. We can’t let kindness or humility stand in the way of justice. Yet we’re sowing the wind, and now we reap the whirlwind. The world’s most-Christian advanced nation is tearing itself apart, and its millions of believers bear much of the blame.

Do take the time to read the rest of it; it's not very long and will reward you more than watching one more TikTok video!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Thought for the day

9b If you remove the yoke from among you,
the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10 if you open your heart to the hungry,
and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
your light will shine in the darkness,
and your gloom will be like the noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually
and provide for you, even in parched places.
He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
12 They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Livable Streets. (Isa 58:9b–12 CEB)

Monday, August 15, 2022

The joys of lack of connectivity

Read this for a look at one person's experience of a week w/out internet. And how hard it was to avoid connectivity. Oh, and the joys of actually being with someone instead of connected to them virtually.

There's a lot to be said for the lack of connectivity. Used to be you could head out into the backwoods and disconnect; not anymore. It’s practically impossible to avoid it. Even the North Shore of Lake Superior has connectivity all along it now. You can lose it if you go behind the ridge, but even there, it is beginning to be found : (

I’m going on a bike trip w/Ryan (our son) and his oldest son, Samuel, this weekend. Unfortunately, there will be connectivity the whole time. So how much time will we have w/each other? And how much will the connectivity seduce us so that we don’t talk to each other?

We’ll see…

Sunday, August 14, 2022

How to avoid being an abusive overseer

“The one who is in line with Paul’s charges [to the Ephesians in Acts 20] and exercises leadership graciously, eagerly, and humbly will manifest a kind of leadership that the world—with its concern for money, prestige, and power—does not know but desperately needs to know.” (William Larkin, Acts, IVPNTC [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995], 300).

Thought for the day

“Any Christianity worth its salt will be a challenge to the pocketbook, the flag, and the shrine” (William Larkin, Acts, IVPNTC [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995], 283)

Read this!

My voice isn't very large, but I feel strongly that the message in today's post by Kristin Du Mez needs to be read by everyone. Here's the paragraph that caused this post:
Scholars who study political violence often identify a period where resistance is possible, but too often during those periods, people perceive the risks as too great and end up going quiet when it matters most.
Definitely read the whole thing and ponder her message—and then live it out! Words matter. Don't demonize or dehumanize others. They are made in the image of God; they might be wrong, but they are human. They need to know the love of God through Jesus just as you and I do.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Thought for the day

From the preface to Scandalous Witness: A Little Political Manifesto for Christians, by Lee C. Camp.

For those of you old enough, it reminds me of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." You can see all the lyrics here. Here's the refrain:

I'll tip my hat to the new Constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Yep. I've been around the block a few times in the last 66 years and I've learned they are correct. But, perhaps even truer, is Qohelet (Ecclesiastes):
1 Remember your creator in your prime,
before the days of trouble arrive,
and those years, about which you’ll say, “I take no pleasure in these”—
2 before the sun and the light grow dark, the moon and the stars too,
before the clouds return after the rain;
3 on the day when the housekeepers tremble and the strong men stoop;
when the women who grind stop working because they’re so few,
and those who look through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are shut,
when the sound of the mill fades,
the sound of the bird rises,
and all the singers come down low;
5 when people are afraid of things above
and of terrors along the way;
when the almond tree blanches, the locust droops,
and the caper-berry comes to nothing;[a]
when the human goes to the eternal abode,
with mourners all around in the street;
6 before the silver cord snaps and the gold bowl shatters;
the jar is broken at the spring and the wheel is crushed at the pit;
7 before dust returns to the earth as it was before
and the life-breath returns to God who gave it.

8 Perfectly pointless, says the Teacher, everything is pointless.

12b There’s no end to the excessive production of scrolls. Studying too much wearies the body. 13 So this is the end of the matter; all has been heard. Worship God and keep God’s commandments because this is what everyone must do. 14 God will definitely bring every deed to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or bad. (Eccl. 12:1–7, 12b–14 CEB)
I'm not quite at the stage where the sun and light have grown dark, and I can still here the birds, and most of my teeth are intact. But, I'm on the second half of my life (at best, probably the last third or quarter), and it's all pointless aside from worshiping God.

Just an
<idle musing>

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Some good advice

Allan Jacobs, a Baylor professor and author of numerous books is also a thoughtful blogger. Of late he has been addressing the digital media/always on culture and its associated problems. Today, he posted some very good advice. Here's an excerpt, but it definitely is worth your while to read the rest of the (short) post:
1. You can stop reading Twitter and Facebook, you can stop watching TV “news,” you can stop listening to loudmouthed podcasters.
2. You can change your news consumption to a weekly cycle rather than a daily – or hourly – one.
3. You can spend more time with monthly or quarterly periodicals; you can read books — even old books.
4.You can also listen to music, ideally music not served up to you algorithmically. Buy one CD or vinyl record per month and listen to it all the way through, multiple times. Retrain your attention.
5. Go outside as often as you can, ideally without devices. Work in the yard, or just walk around. Pause occasionally to take a few deep breaths. When you come back in, do not head straight for your device; instead, make a cup of tea, straighten your shelves, or pray.
This, in conjunction with his advice earlier today (reposted from a year before):
A year ago I wrote: “Wondering how to decide what to read? Here’s a simple but effective heuristic to cut down the choices significantly. Ask yourself one question: Does this writer make bank when we hate one another? And if the answer is yes, don’t read that writer.” The same rule applies to TV, radio, podcasts. If their clicks and ratings and ad revenues go up when we hate one another, flee them like the plague they are.
Yep. Don't feed the trolls; they will get bigger and eventually will be able to eat you. You deserve better than that! You were made in the image of God; don't live like you weren't!

Friday, August 05, 2022

Thought for today

10:1 Doom to those who pronounce wicked decrees,
and keep writing harmful laws
2 to deprive the needy of their rights
and to rob the poor among my people of justice;
to make widows their loot;
to steal from orphans!
3 What will you do on the day of punishment
when disaster comes from far away?
To whom will you flee for help;
where will you stash your wealth?
4 How will you avoid crouching among the prisoners
and falling among the slain?
Even so, God’s anger hasn’t turned away;
God’s hand is still extended.

13 He said, “By my own strength I have achieved it,
and by my wisdom, since I’m so clever.
I disregarded national boundaries; I raided their treasures;
I knocked down their rulers like a bull.
14 My hand found the wealth of the peoples
as if it were in a nest.
Just as one gathers abandoned eggs,
I have gathered the entire earth;
no creature fluttered a wing or opened a mouth to chirp.”

15 Will the ax glorify itself over the one who chops with it?
Or will the saw magnify itself over its user?
As if a rod could wave the one who lifts it!
As if a staff could lift up the one not made of wood!
16 Therefore, the Lord God of heavenly forces
will make the well-fed people waste away;
and among his officials,
a blaze will burn like scorching fire.
17 The light of Israel will become a fire,
its holy one a flame,
which will burn and devour
its thorns and thistles
in a single day.
18 Its abundant forest and farmland
will be finished completely,
as when a sick person wastes away;
19 its forest’s remaining trees will be no more than a child can count. Isaiah 10:1–4, 13–19 (CEB)

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Thought for today

14 I hate your new moons and your festivals.
They’ve become a burden that I’m tired of bearing.
15 When you extend your hands,
I’ll hide my eyes from you.
Even when you pray for a long time,
I won’t listen.
Your hands are stained with blood.
16 Wash! Be clean!
Remove your ugly deeds from my sight.
Put an end to such evil;
17 learn to do good.
Seek justice:
help the oppressed;
defend the orphan;
plead for the widow.

18 Come now, and let’s settle this,
says the Lord.

22 Your silver has become impure;
your beer is diluted with water.
23 Your princes are rebels,
companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe and pursues gifts.
They don’t defend the orphan,
and the widow’s cause never reaches them.
24 Therefore, says the Lord God of heavenly forces,
the mighty one of Israel:
Doom! I will vent my anger against my foes;
I will take it out on my enemies,
25 and I will turn my hand against you.
I will refine your impurities as with lye,
and remove all your cinders. Isa 1:14–18, 22–25 (CEB)

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

About those memories

On today's NIH Director's Blog there is a fascinating post about the brain and memory. One paragraph jumped out at me:
After any new memory is formed, there’s a period of up to about 24 hours during which the memory is malleable. Then, the memory tends to stabilize. But with each retrieval, the memory can be modified as it restabilizes, a process known as memory reconsolidation.
This ties in with a book I just finished reading (sorry, didn't extract from it), The Invisible Gorilla, where they cover the malleability of memory and how even those indelible memories, like 9/11, the explosion of the Challenger, JFK's assassination, are actually quite malleable and not impressed as indelibly as we would like to think.

Food for thought…

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Over-exercising

This post talks about overexertion and the dangers of conflating our cultural workaholism w/athletic improvement as opposed to athletics just for the joy of doing it. Here's key paragraph, but do read the whole thing:
Of course, athletes and their coaches have known about this sort of thinking for a long time [the necessity of recovery time]. Maybe, if I had been less of an indoor cat, I would’ve learned it as a teen. Or maybe it would have been warped by the lens of competitive organized sports, and I would’ve burned out entirely and developed even worse disordered eating habits, and never have been able to do something exercise-related without feeling like I had to win, and an old and devastating injury would haunt every movement. I truly don’t know. I do know that I wasn’t ready for sports, mentally or physically, at that age. And that right now, this year, this week, I am arriving at this feeling of a very certain sort of athleticism — of being an athlete! — entirely on my own terms.
I recall one time, about 17 years ago now, being on a long 60+ mile bike ride, fighting the clock for a better average speed. I felt God nudging me and asking me if I was enjoying the ride. I wasn’t. I wasn’t noticing the world around me, which was beautiful. That’s the day I stopped recording mileage and average speed. And I started enjoying bike riding again.

That’s also why I got the Fitbit this year, to keep me from working too hard. As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m pretty intense : ) And Debbie was concerned (rightfully) that I was pushing myself too hard again. So now, I watch the heart rate, but for a different reason. And surprise, my resting heart rate has dropped because I’m not overexerting myself. There’s a parable there, I’m sure…

About plagiarism, and more…

Via Publishers Weekly, some very good thoughts that start w/plagiarism, but go into the whole process of writing and publishing. Mainly relevant to fiction writing, but transferable to writing/publishing in general.

Friday, July 22, 2022

But how to fix it?

The new Anxious Bench editor/contributor Malcolm Foley has a very good post up today: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2022/07/but-what-do-i-do-on-race-and-political-economy/

Here's an excerpt, but please, as always, read the whole thing—as a seminary professor of mine used to say, "You owe it to yourself":

The primary historical point that must drive coalitional work for racial justice is this: racism’s foundation is neither hate nor ignorance. Its foundation is the desire to dominate and exploit. Even when we do see racial antipathy manifested in hate, it is often a symptom of deeper political and economic anxieties. Because this is the case, communities ought to consider racism not in terms of thought nor in terms of discrete, hateful actions, but in terms of political economy. For the Christian, that means that recourse to the Apostle’s language about Christ breaking down walls of separation by His incarnation and resurrection is good but incomplete; it must also be coupled with the Old Testament calls to Jubilee and debt forgiveness. It is not enough for me to say that I love my neighbor; I must actually invest in their material well-being.
<idle musing>
I just finished editing an article for this fall’s Vergilius (a Classics journal about all things Vergil—what a surprise!) that takes a look at the reception of the Aeneid in the South via a novella entitled Eneus Africanus (link to Project Gutenberg). I’d never heard of the book before, but it was eye-opening.

Once the article gets published I’m going to be recommending it with evangelistic zeal (I'll post a link to it here). The bibliography alone is invaluable. even though I lived in Kentucky for six years and saw a lot of systemic racism—I worked for a moving company in the summer and on breaks among genuine rednecks (or as they were called in Kentucky, “white socks” because they always wear white socks, even with dress shoes)—this opened my eyes to places I hadn’t noticed it before.

Back to the Anxious Bench post, that was just the first in an installment. I highly recommend that you subscribe to it via your RSS feed or however you keep track of blogs. It should be highly informative, hopefully convicting!

Remember, the North was complicit to much of this—remember "sundown laws"? Basically, get out of town by sundown. And where I grew up, in the Indianhead of Wisconsin, the KKK was extremely strong in the 1920s through 1940s… There are more than a few skeletons in people's closets!
</idle musing>

Monday, July 18, 2022

A warning

Editing an article for a Classics journal (to appear later this year), and ran across this statement, which I think could also be expanded to include intertextual references (and allegorical allusions, as well!):
and the acrostic catcher always runs the risk of reeling in one too many.
Yep. Or two too many…

Saturday, July 09, 2022

Divine Christology

Richard Bauckham, arguing against a late Christology that
supposes that a Christology which attributed true divinity to Jesus could not have originated within a context of Jewish monotheism. On this view, divine Christology is the result of a transition from Jewish to Hellenistic religious and, subsequently, Hellenistic philosophical, categories. Nicaea represents the triumph of Greek philosophy in Christian doctrine. This way of reading the history seems to me to be virtually the opposite of the truth. In other words, it was actually not Jewish but Greek philosophical categories which made it difficult to attribute true and full divinity to Jesus. A Jewish understanding of divine identity was open to the inclusion of Jesus in the divine identity. But Greek and Platonic understanding of the relationship of God to the world made it extremely difficult to see Jesus as more than a semi-divine being, neither truly God nor truly human. In the context of the Arian controversies, Nicene theology was essentially an attempt to resist the implications of Greek philosophical understandings of divinity and to re-appropriate, in a new conceptual context, the New Testament’s inclusion of Jesus in the unique divine identity. (Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008], 58)
Cited in a book I'm currently editing (not yet posted on the web).

Hymn for today

1 *All creatures worship God most high,
lift up your voice in earth and sky,
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
thou silver moon with softer gleam,
O sing ye, O sing ye, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

2 Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou rising morn in praise rejoice,
ye lights of evening, find a voice,
O sing ye, O sing ye, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

3 Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
make music for thy God to hear,
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
that givest all both warmth and light,
O sing ye, O sing ye, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

4 Dear mother earth, who day by day,
unfoldest blessings on our way,
alleluia, alleluia!
The flow’rs and fruits that in thee grow,
let them God’s glory also show,
O sing ye, O sing ye, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

5 And ev’ryone, with tender heart,
forgiving others, take your part,
alleluia, alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
sing praise and cast on God your care,
O sing ye, O sing ye, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

6 And thou, most kind and gentle death,
waiting to hush our final breath,
alleluia, alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
as Christ before that way hath trod,
O sing ye, O sing ye, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

7 Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship God in humbleness,
alleluia, alleluia!
To God all thanks and praise belong!
Join in the everlasting song:
O sing ye, O sing ye, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

*Or, “All creatures of our God and King, / lift up your voice and with us sing” (this is the version I grew up with, from the Methodist Hymnal of 1964 [published in 1966])

Lyrics from Hymnary.org, a wonderful resource for hymn lyrics and background information on the composers, authors, and translators of hymns.

Friday, July 08, 2022

The Internet Archive vs. the American Association of Publishers

This is a case to watch. The AAP says that the IA controlled digital lending (CDL) program is a violation of copyright. IA disagrees. This one will go all the way to SCOTUS—unless one side blinks or runs out of money. Given the stakes, I doubt either will blink and the librarians are definitely able to find funding.

You can read the summary on the Publishers Weekly website.

Personally, even though I work in publishing, I’m w/the IA on CDL. And I’ll lay you money that those who work in publishing for the companies filing suit use CDL. I use it all the time to check references when I can’t find what I need in Google books or on the open internet (or don’t own it). And as much as I hate academia.edu’s commercial exploitation, it’s a wealth of information that I use all the time, as well.

Ideally, publishers would publish books at a reasonable cost so real people could afford them; they would publish e-books for libraries at a reasonable cost; and publishers would establish a 12–18 month window on posting offprints on the open web (Lockwood has an 18-month window).

No. I take that back. Ideally, information would be free and society would recognize the value of knowledge and begin to transform that knowledge into wisdom! OK, that’s probably too idealistic. But if we spent as much on non-defense-related stuff … I won’t go there.

just the idle musings of an underling in the publishing world.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Thought for the day—on education

Great post on what's going on in the perennial "education wars" on the Curmudgucation blog. The penultimate paragraph is a good riff on a (misattributed) quotation from Alexis de Tocqueville:
A nation is great because its people—its persons—have the chance to become great. Not just the ones who believe The Right Thing, not just the ones who come from The Right Background. Education is not a commodity sold to parents, but a public good and a societal responsibility shared by us all because we all have to share in the results. That's the promise of public education that I believe in and that I will continue to argue for—that it is a debt we owe to every young human in this country to provide each and every one with a free quality education that empowers them and builds a better nation for all of us (not just the fortunate few).

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Getting rid of resentment

I just ran across this again as I was looking through some things. It seems appropriate for the times. It's by E. Stanley Jones; I think it's from one of his devotionals. I forgot to write down the reference, though.

THE STEPS OUT OF RESENTMENTS

We now come to the steps we are to take to get rid of resentment. Breathe a prayer. You are not just reading a page; you are ridding yourself of a plague.

1. Remember that resentments have no part nor lot with a Christian. You cannot hold both Christ and resentments. One or the other must go. Do you want to go through life without Christ, chewing on resentments, a bitter, crabby, poisonous person? That’s what you are headed for if you allow resentments to fester within you.

It may be that your resentments are justified: someone has mistreated you; you have been disappointed in a life plan or ambition; you have met with a bitter calamity; there are those who rub you into soreness; you have to live in an uncongenial environment—al1 of these things may be very real and apparently justify your resentments. But whether justified or unjustified, resentments are disastrous to the inner life——they are poison. The probabilities are that the resentments are not justified, that they are rooted in a touchy self-centered self, a self that is full of self—pity. Those who harbor self-pity haven't the key, for life will back good will and only good will. Decide that resentments are going to have no part nor lot within you.

2. Remember that no one has ever treated you worse than you have treated God, and yet He forgives and forgets. God isn’t asking you to do something He himself is not doing. Here is one of the most wonderful passages in literature, “Treat one another with the same spirit as you experience in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:5, Moffatt). He forgives you, graciously and without reservation. You must do the same. If not? Then Jesus tells what happened to the man in the parable who was forgiven a debt of “three million pounds” and then went out and refused to forgive a fellow servant who owed him “twenty pounds”—he was handed “over to the torturers, till he should pay him all the debt. My heavenly Father will do the same to you, unless you each forgive your brother from the heart.” (Matt. 18:21–35, Moffatt). The “torturers”? They are within you—resentments mean inner conflict, division, unhappiness, torture.

O Christ, I know how Thou hast treated me: forgiveness, gracious and undeserved. Help me to treat others with the same spirit. Only as Thy spirit takes the place of my old spirit can I do it. Amen.

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I shall treat everybody as Christ treats me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

How much time are you willing to give?

From the Curmudgucation blog:
I see this thread from time to time, this insistence on denying that students are bad at something. "No, you just weren't taught that well" or "Your teacher lacked the right tools" or "You are the victim of too-low expectations" or "You just needed more opportunities to master the material and concepts." Sometimes these ideas make it all the way into policy: if you are a teacher of a Certain Age, you may well remember sitting in a PD session in which you were told earnestly that "All can learn all."

No. Some students are bad at some things. This should not come as a surprise; all human beings are bad at something.

We have a finite number of hours to invest, and we all make choices about how to invest them. It's a weird brand of age-ism to imagine that students do not make similar choices. I don't believe in lazy students, but I absolutely believe in students who will sit in your class and make a rational decision that they do not want to invest the kind of time in your subject that judge would be necessary.

Go read the rest for the full scope of what he is saying. It's worth your time.

<idle musing>
Yep. Time and energy, as well as innate capabilities. In graduate school, with two kids, I had to budget my time, so at the beginning of each term, I decided which class I would settle for a B in. If I had the extra time after assuring an A in the other ones, then I would attempt for an A in that one too. I rarely did, and sometimes I didn’t get an A in some of the ones I was aiming for an A in.

And when it comes to Akkadian, I suck at the signs. Never could wrap my head around the multivalency of them. I enjoyed Hittite because the multivalency was much more limited and the sign list was manageable. I did fine in the grammar and reading of Akkadian once it was transliterated, but the signs? Yuck.

And when I was in engineering, before seeing the light and becoming a humanities major, I hit a brick wall in linear algebra. I just couldn't wrap my head around the concept of six, seven, or nine space. Matrices just blew my 20-year-old mind. Now, I understand the concept, but I'm forty-six years older…
</idle musing>

Saturday, June 18, 2022

So, what's the answer?

Maybe you want to know the question first? What's the best way out of the current high degree of wealth inequality? The Atlantic takes a look at how we got where we are. Hint, it started back in the late 1970s, but the real problem was our response in the 1980s and beyond. Read the whole article for context. Please! Read the article. Here's the penultimate paragraph, but please read the whole article for context.
The answer to our unequal age lies not in better monetary policy. It lies in better fiscal and regulatory policy. The central bank has enormous influence, but primarily over borrowing costs and the pace of economic growth. The power to alter the distribution of wealth and earnings—as well as expand the supply of child care, housing, energy, and everything else—lies with Congress. It could spend huge sums of money to hasten the country’s energy transition and make it less vulnerable to gas-price shocks. It could overhaul the country’s system of student-loan debt, helping Black families build wealth. It could break up monopolies and force companies to compete for workers and market share again. It could task states and cities with increasing their housing supplies, so that regular families could afford apartments in Queens and houses in Oakland and condo units in Washington, D.C. It could implement labor standards that would mean the middle class could afford to buy into the stock market too. Yet it remains hamstrung by the filibuster, and by a minority party dedicated to upward redistribution.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Strawberries!

OK, one strawberry, but it is the promise of more to come. I picked our first strawberry of the season yesterday, and it reminded me of why fresh strawberries, not even an hour from the plant, are the best. We'll get another one today and for the next few days until the main bunch starts ripening. Meanwhile, we savor that one strawberry each day.

I also picked the first peas of the season yesterday. A handful of them and more will be ready each day. The second crop, from a slightly later variety will come in when the first plants are done. And the snow peas will be starting soon, too.

Meanwhile, I've been chomping down on fresh chard and radishes for a couple of weeks now. The kale is pickable, but I'm trying to use up the stuff I have frozen from last year, so I'm letting it get bigger.

And the raspberries are blooming and the bumblebees and honey bees are thoroughly enjoying them. You walk by the patch and you can hear their contented buzzing.

And, something I forgot in the initial posting, I've been enjoying summer pita sandwiches, consisting of broccoli raab, chard, chive blossoms, and Mustard Girl garlic mustard. Delicious and the sure sign that summer is here!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

About those celebrity bookshelves

Via Publishers Weekly, an article on books by the yard, from The Millions: "Is It So Wrong to Accessorize with Books?"

I had read about it a few years back, but it seems to be a real thing now.

Not sure what I think, but I lean toward this sentiment: “But this kerfuffle is not about the use—or misuse—of books as fashion accessories, home décor, or branding tools. Call me Pollyanna, but I don’t think that Ashley Tisdale and Dior and Gigi Hadid are trivializing books. They’re doing precisely the opposite: they’re reminding us of books’ outsize power to shape our perceptions of their owners. You want to understand someone? Peruse the contents of her medicine chest, her garbage can, and her bookshelf. One’s literary tastes can reveal not just aesthetic preferences but aspects of character. This is because of the investment books require—not only of money, but of time and psychic energy.”

Or, as I read many years ago, our bookshelf tells people what we want them to think we are. I hope my bookshelves do more than that, though. I hope they are an actual reflection of who I am—or am trying to become anyway. I certainly don’t read Ethiopic or Coptic, and my Syriac is terrible, but maybe someday… that’s what those books on my shelf are for. They beckon me and someday, someday, yes someday I will answer the call. Or at least, I hope I do.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Train up a conscience…

OK, an intentional misquote of the proverb.

Not sure where I ran across this link, so if you’ve seen it, apologies, but it is well-worth your time. The title of the post doesn't do it justice: Secret Tentative Intimation

For me, these two paragraphs/lines were the heart of it:

What I learned from my time at Guantanamo is that the time to deliberate, seek advice, and reflect for long periods of time in prayer so that we have a conscience that can stand on solid footing “just when it matters” exists only ahead of time, when one can’t foresee the curveballs. Conscience is, after all, not a rabbit one can suddenly pull out of a magic hat. It is something that must be cultivated and developed over time so that it is available and ready to go when one of those “just when it matters” moments comes our way.
and
Textbooks are important, but we cannot expect them to do the long, hard work of awakening and forming the consciences of the young (and the not-so-young as well). Our Catholic [and not just Catholic!] institutions need to prepare students for real life, not just for careers. There will always be curveballs.
I’ve run across a few curveballs in my life, and only by God’s grace gotten through them. And I firmly believe it was because of intentional cultivation of an internal spiritual life training me to depend on God. I’ve still got a long way to go on that, but God is patient, even when I’m not!

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Plant a garden!

This excerpt from Braiding Sweetgrass stands on its own and is too good not to post:
People often ask me what one thing I would recommend to restore relationship between land and people. My answer is almost always, “Plant a garden.” It’s good for the health of the earth and it’s good for the health of people. A garden is a nursery for nurturing connection, the soil for cultivation of practical reverence. And its power goes far beyond the garden gate—once you develop a relationship with a little patch of earth, it becomes a seed itself.

Something essential happens in a vegetable garden. It’s a place where if you can’t say “I love you” out loud, you can say it in seeds. And the land‘ will reciprocate, in beans.—Braiding Sweetgrass, 126–27

<idle musing>
Indeed! That's been true in my own life. Do yourself a favor, plant a garden. Start small, though or you will be overwhelmed.
</idle musing>

Monday, June 06, 2022

What's happening here?

I've been silent here for a few days, and it's likely to continue. Right now I'm in the process of reading Braiding Sweetgrass, a fascinating book. It's a collection of short essays by a Native American biologist trying to integrate her ancestry with the scientific approach. Well, actually, it's much more than that. Fascinating book and challenging at the same time. It appeals to my gardening instincts and my mystical bent in Christianity (she's not Christian, but some of her insights are very easily adapted).

The essays are short; the storytelling is great. But, it doesn't lend itself to extracts because that would destroy the narrative that makes them so powerful.

All that to say, this blog will be relatively quiet for a while until I pick up the next book that lends itself to extracts, which could be as soon as today or as late as a month from now.

Meanwhile, we have a pileated woodpecker attacking a stump outside my study window. It's doing a great job of scattering wood chips all over and grabbing grubs. But, it kind of wreaked havoc with the marigolds I had planted there, so I transplanted them : )

Here's a picture that Debbie took yesterday. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Counter-factual

Suppose Abraham had not been silent. Suppose he had been so sure of the mercy of God that he could wrestle with God, arguing back, challenging God—interceding for his son. Or suppose Abraham wasn’t sure of God’s mercy but took the risk to lament anyway. He might have come to know the compassion of this God, who hosted (and affirmed) Job’s complaint——which brought job comfort in the end.

Yet despite Abraham’s failure to lament, God was gracious and kept faith with Abraham, continuing to work through this fractured family——ultimately to bring redemption to the world.

And the God of Abraham continues to welcome lament even today.—Abraham's Silence, 240 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Well, that wraps up this book. It's been an interesting ride, hasn't it? I found lots to mull over. And I'm sure I'll be thinking about some of this for a long time.

Not sure what's up next. Right now, the book I'm reading doesn't lend itself to excerpts, but I said that a while back and ended up pulling stuff from it.

We'll see what happens. Meanwhile, I might write an excursus on a section of Naming Neoliberalism: Exposing the Spirit of Our Age that I found troublingly inaccurate. Again, we'll see...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A make-up exam

Yet Abraham finally did come to understand that God didn’t want him to sacrifice his son. If we consider his sacrificing the ram as analogous with a make-up test given by a generous professor, might we say that in this sense Abraham just barely passed the test of the discernment of God’s character? Or is that conceding too much?—Abraham's Silence, 223 (emphasis original)

<idle musing
I keep asking myself how well I would have done on this test. I fear I would not have passed…
</idle musing>

Friday, May 27, 2022

Did he pass?

Yet the fact that he did eventually look around could be taken as a point in his favor. Perhaps Abraham is to be commended not simply for looking around but especially for offering up the ram “as a burnt offering instead of his son” (22:13) on his own initiative. This was not something actually commanded by God. In one sense, it was too little, too late. In another, it was better than nothing, in that it signified that Abraham finally understood that God did not want him to sacrifice his son. Evidence of his coming to this understanding is that Abraham names the site “YHWH sees/provides” (22:14).

I am inclined to think that Abraham did not pass the test in Genesis 22. His silent obedience indicated that he did not discern God’s merciful character (until the angel called off the sacrifice); and he did not show love for his son by interceding on his behalf.—Abraham's Silence, 222–23 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Unfortunately, I'm inclined to agree with him that Abraham failed the test. But, I wonder if I would have done any better. Do I understand the character of God? Or do I have various lens that distort my view? I suspect the latter is true.

May God remove the distortion that I might see him as he truly is!
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Speak up!

If I were to construct a hierarchy of possible responses that Abraham might have made to God’s request to sacrifice his son, I would put protest and intercession on behalf of Isaac at the top of the list, as the optimal response. Through such protest/intercession, Abraham would have demonstrated his profound discernment of God’s character, that YHWH was merciful and compassionate. Or his intuition that God was merciful would have led him to prayer; and this intuition would have been confirmed and expanded by such prayer, resulting (I believe) in God rescinding the request. Such protest and intercession would have also demonstrated his love for Isaac, perhaps strengthening the tenuous bond between them.

But Abraham didn’t speak out on behalf of his son.

Somewhat below this optimal response would be Abraham’s genuine belief that God would provide a substitute—that is, he might have remained silent (against the general tenor of Scripture, which encourages bold prayer), yet trusted that somewhere along the journey or on the mountain itself, he might find an animal to sacrifice instead of his son. Yet when he arrived at the spot for the sacrifice, Abraham did not give even a cursory glance around the vicinity to see if God had provided a substitute; he simply bound his son and placed him on the altar. He did not look around until after the angel called off the sacrifice.—Abraham's Silence, 222

<idle musing>
Don't you want to take Abraham by the shoulders and shake him, yelling, "Wake up! Look around you! Speak up!"

I know I do. But, what about the injustices around you? Are you interceding with God on behalf of those? Asking God to be merciful?

If not, then why not? Maybe you believe in a different god than the biblical one...

Just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Too task oriented

Let us understand what is going on. A ram is a male goat or sheep, and for its curled horns (from which a shofar is made) to be long enough to be caught in a thicket, it would have needed to be a fully grown specimen. A large, adult ram, full of testosterone, would have made a huge racket trying to extricate its horns from the thicket that it was caught in. The fact that Abraham didn’t hear the ram (and thus didn’t look around for the source of the noise) when he first arrived suggests that the ram had already stopped struggling. In other words, it had been caught in the bushes (provided by God as a substitute) long before Abraham arrived and had exhausted itself. Such prior provision of a substitute would have flowed from the mercy of Abraham’s God toward him (and also toward Isaac). But if the ram had, indeed, been there (provided or “seen to” by God, as Abraham claimed God would do), Abraham clearly missed it. Did he even look to see if there was a substitute?—Abraham's Silence, 220–21

<idle musing>
Abraham was so task-oriented that he didn't even hear what was going on around him, let alone notice anything. I've been that way at times. It's not a healthy place to be. You miss out on life—you miss out on the provisions that God has supplied so your task doesn't have to be as heavy as you think it is!

May none of us be so task-oriented that we miss God's loving provisions for us!
</idle musing>

Monday, May 23, 2022

But, what if…

Prior to the Aqedah, the promise was stated in terms of the nations blessing one another by Abraham (12:3; 18:18). But here for the first time the blessing is connected to Abraham’s descendants: “By your offspring shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves” (22:18a).

This means that for the promise to be fulfilled, Abraham would need to have offspring. He would need to have obeyed the angel’s command to stop the sacrifice and spare Isaac. This is why the angel links the promise to the sparing of Isaac: “By your offspring shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have listened to my voice.” Simply put, if Abraham had not desisted from the sacrifice when the angel called from heaven, there would be no offspring by which the nations could bless themselves.—Abraham's Silence, 218 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Quite a provocative thought! I'll have to chew on that one for a while…
</idle musing>

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