Saturday, December 23, 2006

On Christians

[Christianity] It seems to have remarkably little to do with the things that Jesus Christ actually taught. Especially among Christians in positions of great wealth and power, the idea of reading the Gospels and keeping Jesus's commandments as stated therein has been replaced by a curious process of logic. According to this process, people first declare themselves to be followers of Christ, and then assume that whatever they say or do merits the adjective "Christian."

-Wendell Berry

Friday, December 15, 2006

to follow

To follow Christ according to Cardinal Suhard, "does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Picture of James Crossley during his SBL paper!

A lot has been made of James' picture on his blog, I was fortunate enough to hang with James (nice enough lad), and although I did not make it to his paper presentation at SBL, I was able to get my hands on an artists rendition of James directly after his paper.

ETS: a recap

I had a great time at ETS. It is always nice to re-connect with old friends and meet new ones. I read my paper at ETS on Romans 13, and it went well, I got some really good feedback. (Thanks for everyone who came to my paper and for all the much needed feedback!) ETS was at a much better venue this year, ironically we were in the hip Dupont Circle area of D.C. for ETS, and as a consequence there were some really good restaurants, and some nice pubs. Chimay on tap!

I only went to one group of papers at ETS, it was the Young Evangelical Scholars group, it was the best put together session I have ever been to at an ETS. If this is the future of ETS, then we are in good hands. I was really impressed with the presentation by J. Kameron Carter, and Shane Claiborn from the Simple Way had a lot to say that made me a bit conscious of my lack of imagination.

It was a good time overall, but since the Yadav brothers were missing it was not quite the same!

More to come on SBL...

Friday, November 03, 2006

research tools


Cory Doctorow
: Brendon sez, "Zotero is a very interesting Firefox-based browser that has been modded to accomodate the needs of scholars and infovores. It basically pulls a bunch of research tools into one browser, for the benefit of humanities scholars who get easily confused. Supports export to EndNote, storage capability, ability to search through your collections of stored data, etc."

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work — in the web browser itself.
Link (Thanks, Brendon!)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Vintage Eagleton

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster. These days, theology is the queen of the sciences in a rather less august sense of the word than in its medieval heyday.

Read the rest here:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Porn for book lovers!

Warning: You must be at least eighteen to continue to the rest of the pictures.

Monday, September 18, 2006

ETS: I have your thursday plan for you!

Wouldn't it be nice if ETS just put us all together! But if you are interested in Romans, I hope you make the journey. At least come and here me!

Edison Room

9:20-10:00 am
Timothy Gombis (Cedarville University)
Transforming the Body: Salvation as
Restoration to the Proper Use of the Body
in Romans

10:10-10:50 am
Bryan Lee (The University of Sheffield)
The Radical Resistance of Love in
Romans 13

11:00-11:40 am
Preston Sprinkle (University of Nottingham)
Paul and the Law: The Use of Leviticus 18:5
in Romans 9:30–10:8

Either I am not a nerd or simply stupid?

I am nerdier than 37% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Formation (2)

Boyarin's conception of the parting of the ways is much more difficult to graph. It is a much more realistic conception even if it isn't as helpful heuristically. The first image used to describe formative Christianity and formative Judaism would be a spectrum with you guessed it Judaism on one end and Christianity on the other. It is important to note that if one where to graph this period no points would be marked on either of the polls. The next graph that would be helpful would be a sort of timeline that would have sects or communities that would be represented graphically as concrete entities producing waves. Theses waves would expand as if in an echo chamber mixing and changing with the waves of other groups and eventually returning to the sect or community commingling with other voices and taken up again by the sect or community. You can see why it may not be the best explanation for heuristic purposes, but what Boyarin is getting at is the parting of the ways was much more localized phenomenon and commingling throughout the spectrum can only be talked about in relation to localities and even then the evidence is at best sketchy. It is best to view the spread of ideas in categories of orthodoxy and heterodoxy categories that betray dialogue.

As someone 'attempting' to do NT studies this makes me much more conscious of not importing assumptions about a parting of the ways into the texts I study. This is especially important for a text like Romans where so much is riding on Jewish and Gentile relations, that an assumption regarding the parting of the ways may change the texts meaning considerably.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Life imitating Art

Read story here:
The Life of Pi

Formation (part 1)

The usual (non-scholarly Christian) conception of formative Christianity is that you have this monolithic ancient Judaism until after the second temple was built, then in the 'intertestamental period' the once 'faithful,' or nearly faithful, people of god digress into a lumpy mass of legalism, lifting the Torah up in such a manner as to replace the god of the Torah. Out of this mess the Jesus movement started, and Christianity was born, and is seen as getting back to 'true' religion, with the focus back upon god.

The more complex conception of formative Christianity recognizes that even the texts that make up the Hebrew Scriptures are not monolithic and thus contain various groups competing and perhaps with differing ideologies. The Second Temple Period only differs in fact that we have an actual collection of diverse texts, and perhaps evidence of more 'sects' which seem to be competing to be recognized as the true people of god. The Jesus movement arises from this context and is best described as a 'sect' within Judaism seeking to reform the separate groups into accepting their ideology. As the Jesus movement gained in acceptance, at some point in its history (this is the debated aspect) there was a 'parting of the ways' between Judaism(s) and between Christianity. Much of the scholarly debate focuses upon when this split or fissure happened.

In this model Ancient Judaism birthed Christianity (along with what would come to be known as Rabbinical Judaism). And graphically we can view this either as a family tree of sorts or as a vend diagram. While this conception is much more plausible then the popular one I described at first it does have its problems...

Sunday, August 06, 2006


HT: Dan from PoserorProphet

"It is also crucial to bear in mind the interconnection between the Decalogue... and its modern obverse, the celebrated 'human Rights'. As the experience of our post-political liberal-permissive society amply demonstrates, human Rights are ultimately, at their core, simply Rights to violate the Ten Commandments. 'The right to privacy' -- the right to adultery, in secret, where no one sees me or has the right to probe my life. 'The right to pursue happiness and to possess private property' -- the right to steal (to exploit others). 'Freedom of the press and of the expression of opinion' -- the right to lie. 'The right of free citizens to possess weapons' -- the right to kill. And, ultimately, 'freedom of religious belief' -- the right to worship false gods."

The Fragile Absolute -- or, why is the christian legacy worth fighting for?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

One Book Meme

One book meme

Ben started a new meme with a post a while back, since I have been gone for a week I just noticed it, and I thought I would pick it up:

1. One book that changed your life:
Tom Wrights, New Testemant and the People of God (1996)
I read this in my first year of post graduate studies, and it completely changed my outlook on New Testament studies, it opened my mind.

2. One book that you've read more than once:
John Irving, A Prayer For Owen Meany (1997)
I read this book whenever I am struggeling with faith and belief, Owen always makes me want to believe again.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island:
Karl Barth, Dogmatics (2004)
I am not sure if this is fair, but who knows when I will be rescued!

4. One book that made you laugh:
Bill Bryson, Notes from a small Island (1997)
Bryson describes a beach holiday to perfection!

5. One book that made you cry:
John Irving, A Prayer For Owen Meany (1997)

6. One book that you wish had been written:
Tom Wright,
Pauline Theology (2xxx)

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins,
Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days (1995)

8. One book you're currently reading:
Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos(1986)

9. One book you've been meaning to read:
George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Confession (1996)

10. Now tag five people: This is the part that never seems to work with memes - Take a shot Blue

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Life of Pi Redux

Don't read this if you plan on reading the book and you don't want spoilers!

Dan asked me what my take on the Life of Pi was? So instead of burying it in the comments I thought I would post about it.

Like I said before the Life of Pi is a book that pays huge dividends upon completion, and upon reflection. It is a book that claims to make you believe in god. While that is a bold claim, which depending upon ones own constitution may or may not be true, it will certainly make you reflect upon the divine.

The claim itself made me have high ambitions for the book, not because I believed it, but rather because it reminded me of the opening of my favorite book, 'A Prayer for Owen Meany', the narrator of that book claims that it was Owen who made him believe in god, and to be honest, A Prayer for Owen Meany was a book that helped me regain my faith in a time of doubt, so I was hoping that Pi would be an equally powerful narrative.

It was a powerful story and it will make me think and reflect for days to come, but if I were to succinctly give my take on the book, I think the message is about the power of stories to influence and even sustain faith. The book never mentions the 'truth' of the divine, and that will bother a lot of people who think that truth is the beginning and end of religion. And it reduces the religious life to living out better stories, stories of hope, stories of redemption, stories of survival, rather than living out stories that are cold and materialist (in the technical sense), but that's not a bad reduction. What one needs to live out these better stories is an imagination that itself is empowered by faith. So the novel has a lot to chew on.

The problem I find with this narrative, is not that it ignores truth, but rather that it ignores community. But this is not really a serious problem I have with the novel, because I wouldn't expect the novel to grasp this, or want it to, it is simply something I would like keep in my own mind when I reflect upon this book.

There are some killer themes in this book in regards to language, truth, and of course stories. These themes when dealt with in a novel are always riveting to me, and that is part of why I enjoyed the novel, but even if you don't get into these themes the book is still worth a read.

Some choice quotes:

On Tradition:

"But we should not cling! A plague upon fundamentalists and literalists!"

This quote reminded me of the seminal work by Fishbane on Ancient Israel. Fishbane's main point was to show how the traditions of Israel changed to meet the new circumstances of the present. If traditions don't change they become naturally become impotent.

On Language:

"Doesn't the telling of something always become a story? ...Isn't telling something - using words - already something of an invention?...The world isn't how it is. It is how you understand it, no? And in understanding something we bring something to it, no? Doesn't that make life a story?”

Yes it does Pi, Yes it does.... "And so it goes with God."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Why universal health care is a good move!

Read this here.

Why a Ph.D. takes so long...

Back when I was in Sheffield I remember at a seminar Prof. Loveday Alexander mentioned how she thought that the proper paradigm for the parting of the ways was mostly captured by Boyarin's account. I sat there and nodded my head, as I often do when things only partially register, whilst my brain raced trying desperately to connect the name Boyarin with the books that I had recently read. I had remembered one on Intertextuality and Midrash, and perhaps something about a radical Jew, but nothing on Christian origins. So I determined to find Boyarin's book on Christian origins, as soon as the seminar was over, but I suspect the sirens at the Devonshire Cat were calling that day, and by the second pint all thoughts of getting any serious work done were well behind me.

Well good news I have finally tracked down Boyarin's book on the subject, it only took me two years. Who said efficiency is part of the Ph.D. process anyway? Well I plan on posting some thoughts on the parting of the ways after I tuck into this little gem.

Oh, you just want me to give up the name of the book when I worked so hard for it!

Ok then I am feeling nice:


I heard a preacher say that you can't love God directly, you can only love God indirectly by loving others. That really made me start to think about how much I love God...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Who Said It?

"if the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions , great is our sin."

Monday, July 10, 2006

the errors of our ways

I picked up the "Mismeasure of Man" by S.J.Gould and couldn't help but think that these 'sins' are the very same grave errors one finds in much of Biblical Studies.

Reductionism: the desire to explain partly random, large-scale, and irreducibly complex phenomena by the smallest constituent parts.

Reification: the propensity to convert an abstract concept into a hard entity

Dichotomization: our desire to parse complex and continuous reality into two's

Hierarchy: our inclination to order items by ranking them in a linear series of increasing worth

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

the better story

Some time ago I trudged through the Yann Martel novel the Life of Pi. I say trudge because while it started off extremely engaging, the majority of the novel takes place on a shiprecked raft, and there is not a heck of a lot things you can do on a raft. Yet, it is one of those novels that pays huge dividends upon finishing. It is simply superbly crafted. And I know I will read it again. Here is a passage from the book that has a a bit of a Brueggemannian feel. Enjoy:

I can well imagine an atheist's last words: "White, white! L-L-Love! My God!" --and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, "Possibly a f-f-failing in oxygenation of the b-b-brain," and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story.

Monday, June 26, 2006

sideways again.

I have not posted in some time, life does that to you sometimes, ya know. So I will update you on my meanderings:

First we moved house and that took some considerable energy, my books are still boxed up as we await bookshelves worthy to hold my precious tombs. If my wife had her way they would remain in there cardboard confines for eternity, but I insist that is no way to treat your friends.

I had the privilege to participate in a mission trip to Mexico with Amor ministries; where our group built three houses. There is something very energizing about living out the faith rather than simply talking about it. I think I could work for the peace corp. or for Habitat and be quite fulfilled.

I have a paper to write for ETS now; I am attempting to take Romans 13 as a polemic against the governing authorities, rather than as a statement of complicity; should be fun! I can't wait for ETS/SBL and meeting up with good friends and indulging in all things vinous!

Started reading "sideways" this weekend and almost finished it. It has been a long time since I picked up a novel and read it straight through. I almost forgot how relaxing it is to get lost in another world. I wish the book had been out when my wife and I toured the wineries on the central coast of cali.; perhaps I would have tried more pinots.

The blue Raja has come out of hiding and is getting grilled straight way. Me thinks he needs to distance himself from those who draw such distinct boundaries concerning the Christian faith. Anyone who thinks that someone as conservative as N.T. Wright is a heretic needs to refresh their glass of pinot two or three times. I mean really what is up with these people? And for the record he is not as pompous as people make him out to be, he is a rather sweet and genuine man.

Finally I have world cup fever! It is not the same watching the games with my sons and wife as it was four years ago watching it with the lads in England. America needs to sack their manager, and go out and get someone, anyone else. They also need to get their best players to sign contracts in Europe, you will never be a great player and play in the America. England looks like they are underachieving again, (how many years are you allowed to underachieve, until the truth slips out) Rooney looks fit, and he is amazing to watch, but as a team they seem so flat. As long as they keep winning I guess; this next game will be telling.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Many of my friends think that metalepsis is a really dumb name for a blog. Rather than go into a lengthy apology of why I chose the name, I will let the wit and wisdom of computer generated responses do it for me. Hence the googlisms:

metalepsis is an expression gradually leading up to what it shows
metalepsis is an obscure word even for many humanists
metalepsis is important here
metalepsis is a trope apt for detailing the formal qualities of indeterminate language and a locus where classical rhetoric and a poetics of indeterminacy
metalepsis is also found in greek sources
metalepsis is a haunting
metalepsis is a menace to the referential illusion of fiction
metalepsis is the transformation of an observer left outside the conversation into a participant through his judgment about the conversation
metalepsis is my favorite word of what i've read today
metalepsis is a relation between an antecedent and a consequent

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

everyone needs protection

For those of you who have an ipod and are religious about your music, there is nothing worse then getting your hip new music player all scratched up. If protection is what you seek, there is no better place then gelaskins’ new vinyl flying spaghetti monster cover, which promises to protect your ipod both physically and spiritually.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lyotard and the pomo condition

Check this out if you are even slightly interested in pomo musings. Dan offers a very good review of Lyotard's critical pomo book.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Ben Myers on U2's Grace

Ben Myers has a thoughtful reflection about U2's song grace, here is a teaser:

Tonight while I was washing the dishes I listened to U2's sublime song, "Grace" (2000). I need to listen to this song every now and then, just to be reminded that I still know nothing at all about grace. Many preachers, perhaps even many theologians, do not understand the grace of God half as well as this song does.

Check out the rest HERE.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

a shift

Along the way, the primacy of God and his work gives way ever so slightly to the primacy of our work in God's kingdom. We begin to think of ways to use God in what we're doing. The shift is barely perceptible, for we continue to use the vocabulary of our new identity. We continue to believe the identical truths. We continue pursuing good goals. It usually takes a long time for the significance of the shift to show up. But when it does, it turns out that we have not so much been worshiping God as enlisting him as a trusted and valuable assistant.

Eugene H. Peterson Living the Resurrection, 32-33

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pray for us, our church has the bends

Where do we go from here?
The words are coming out all weird
Where are you now when I need you?
Alone on an aeroplane
Falling asleep against the window pane
My blood will THICKEN.

I need to wash myself again to hide all the dirt and pain
'cause I'd be scared that there's nothing underneath
And who are my real friends?
Have they all got the bends?
Am I really sinking this low?

My baby's got the bends - Oh no
We don't have any real friends - No no no
Just lying in a bar with my drip feed on
talking to my girlfriend waiting for something to happen
I wish it was the sixties
I wish I could be happy
I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen.

Where do we go from here?
The planet is a gunboat in a sea of fear
And Where are you?
They brought in the C.I.A.
The tanks, and the whole marines to blow me away
To blow me sky high.

My baby's got the bends
We don't have any real friends
Just lying in a bar with my drip feed on
talking to my girlfriend waiting for something to happen
I wish it was the sixties
I wish I could be happy
I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen.

I want to live and breathe
I want to be part of the human race.

I want to live and breathe
I want to be part of the human race.

Where do we go from here?
The words are coming out all weird
Where are you now when I need you?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter is about Grace

I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep sh@$. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity. I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says, "Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions." The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled. It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.

- Bono (Michka Assayas, Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas [New York: Riverhead, 2005] 204).

HT: Tyler F. Williams at Codex

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Faith seeking Understanding

Check out this wonderful little dandy by Dan, it really made take acount of some things, hope it does the same for you. Thanks Dan!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


In talking about what God's gifts oblige of us, Volf speaks of a posture of receptivity. We are receivers of God's gifts and receivers only, we don't bring anything to the table, and we don't have any favors to return. We practice being receivers and receivers only by relating to God in faith.

This seems funny to say that we are obliged to receive; Volf explains it this way:

To want to earn benefits from God or to receive them as payback gifts is to say three wrong things at once: (1) God is a negotiator God; (2) we can give something to God in exchange for something we want; and (3) we are agents independent of God who can relate to God any way we find to our liking. None of these things is true, however. God is not a negotiator but a pure giver. We can give nothing to God but have received everything from God. Finally, we are not independent of God but are living on a given breath. To fail to recognize these three things is to live blindly and to claim God's gifts as our own achievements. To recognize these truths is to understand ourselves as who we truly are, fundamentally receivers.

Faith is then the way we as receivers relate appropriately to God as a giver. Faith is empty hands open for God to fill. Faith makes us beggars, and to be a beggar and not an achiever is shameful in our day and age. Faith thus underscores our inability rather than our power. It thus celebrates what we most properly are -- God's empowered creatures.

Faith is the first part of the bridge from self-centeredness to generosity.

The question that I have been mulling over is this: How does this notion of faith mesh with the narrative (subjective genitive) reading of Pistis Christou?

My initial reaction is pretty well, but I will have a think about it.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sidebar Update

So I have finally updated my sidebar to reflect the blogs that I read on my RSS reader. These are blogs that I have been reading for some time, I have just not gotten around to emphasizing this on my blog. So here goes in no particular order:

Chrisendom: Chris Tilling is a witty Brit who finds himself studying in Germany. Has some great reflections on inerrancy, theology, and biblical studies. I hope he sends me a Doner for mentioning his blog!

Sibboleth: Daniel Kirk is a much more successful me. I assume he has finished his Diss. He has a high regard for Richard Hays, He has a job at an institution I would like to teach at, and he writes far better posts than I. So if you ever wanted to read posts that are well reasoned, and have been disappointed by what you get here at metalepsis, the bizarro world is just a click away!

Gospel of Matthew: J.B. Hood is a student up in Scotland doing some work on you guessed it Matthew. Great post on a theology of Land that I have to go back and reread myself!

the busybody: Loren Rosson III really does know it all! Great Esler fan, not so keen on intertextuality...

TallSkinnyKiwi: The name says it all!

Fors Clavigera: James K.A. Smith's Blog. If I was smarter I would really like to study philosophy under him, his take on Derrida is phenom! Buy his books, they are worth a read, just buy them used, we wouldn't want money and fame to go to his head!

the bishop of rhome: Adam Groza one of the finest human beings to grace the planet. Is a Phish loving, chasuble wearing, SBC pastor. It seems the powers that be often block his blog, so good luck ever reading this Eucharistic Baptist.

Now go enjoy!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Christianity is a most wonderful thing

It is amazing to me that Christianity is the most wonderful thing that has ever come to us and yet it seems to have touched the lives of most people very little.

Isn't that the way it is all through the Bible? It seems to me that that is part of the message. Maybe that's the meaning of "Many are called, but few are chosen." It isn't that people are consciously bad. Maybe they respond on one level but just do not follow through. Scripture teaches us basic things, God's thoughts about human beings. We have to remember that no one does everything right. We are all sinners. God speaks and we do not listen. On the other hand, the mercy of God is constant. It cannot be overcome. God's promises are absolute. Being Christian doesn't mean "being on the right side." A Christian does not always know where justice lies, does not always see clearly. But the Christian is aware that, while in the human being there is falsity and infidelity, in the mercy of God there is always absolute fidelity. So we reject no one, but still try to dissociate ourselves from anything that is going to hurt other people. Every Christian has to stand up for the truth that God's mercy is without repentance. God never takes back mercy. We are in a world where many people are in despair. That's where God is really needed. Our Christian witness of mercy is not, after all credible to a lot of people, because it's not very profound. The renewal of the whole Church hinges on this. And not just in ideological terms. We also have to dig in and really help those in trouble.

Thomas Merton, The Springs of Contemplation, 37

Friday, March 24, 2006

light pollution

but it is funny how alive he felt, down in that unemployment line
with all the trash at his feet
the pools of piss in the street
all of that filthy empathy for the way we're feeling

- Bright Eyes, Light pollution from the Digital Ash In A Digital Urn album (2005)


Sean du Toit over at primal subversion offers a good anecdote on the importance of learning by imitation:

An art which cannot be specified in detail cannot be transmitted by prescription, since no prescription for it exists. It can be passed on only by example from master to apprentice. This restricts the range of diffusion to that of personal contacts.

It follows that an art which has fallen into disuse for the period of a generation is altogether lost. There are hundreds of examples of this to which the process of mechanization is continuously adding new ones. These losses are usually irretrievable. It is pathetic to watch the endless efforts -- equipped with microscopy and chemistry, with mathematics and electronics -- to reproduce a single violin of the kind the half-literate Stradivarius turned out as a matter of routine more than 200 years ago.

To learn by example is to submit to authority
. You follow your master because you trust his manner of doing things even when you cannot analyse and account in detail for its effectiveness. By watching the master and emulating his efforts in the presence of his example, the apprentice unconsciously picks up the rules of the art, including those which are not explicitly known to the master himself. These hidden rules can be assimilated only by a person who surrenders himself to that extent uncritically to the imitation of another
... practical wisdom is more truly embodied in action than expressed in rules of action... [1] Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Toward a Post-critical Philosophy (1958) pp. 53-54

Friday, March 17, 2006

Journeying with those in Exile

Dan from On Journeying with those in Exile has posted some very interesting musings entitled, 'Communicating Meaning: Speaking Religion with G. Lindbeck, M. Heidegger & U. Eco.'

In this short essay Dan is interested in communication, and how we are able to communicate pragmatically despite the ongoing postmodern anxiety over truth claims. He highlights three different approaches to communication focusing on the views of a theologian, a philosopher, a literary theorist; and attempts to synthesize them.

For the most part I agree with Dan so my dialoging with his ideas will not display any substantive disagreement. Dan highlights one of the biggest questions for those who find themselves in a postmodern context.

'If all truths are contextually understood, how can any communication occur between communities? It seems as though we are forced to accept the postmodern conclusion, so strongly supported by the likes of Eco, that communication is limited to pragmatic purposes and no real or universal truth-value can be expressed across community boundaries.'

Dan offers two ways to approach this problem, the first is by the Christians skillful performance of the language that is the language of the Christian religion. The second is the recognition that Jesus is the truth, Jesus is the word (certainly this statement should give us reason to pause about understanding truth as merely propositions). Here Dan states:

'Therefore, even apart from the living embodiment of the word in the faith community, Christian truth can be conveyed because Jesus himself is the Word. Certainly God works primarily through his Church, but God is not limited to his Church. Of course, as writers like Eco make clear, this assertion cannot be declared in any convincing (or even sensible) manner to those who have not yet encountered the Word made flesh. Yet the inability of all communities to agree upon a universal truth does not mean there is no universal truth, and, as God has made clear over and over again, the inability of communities to agree upon a universal truth does not mean that truth cannot be communicated (through language) across community lines.'

As I have been trying to work through some of these same issues in my own life, I am often caught in a kind of vertigo, a recognition that things are not as stable as I would like them to be, or even as stable as I once thought they were. I think there is a type of humility that transcends Dan's essay, a type of earthy humility that I suspect Dan gets from living out his faith, amid those who have been exiled from society. A kind of humility that starts with the uncertainty of God, rather than with a stable set of foundations that are deemed true about God intrinsically. But I don't know...

The recognition that we can't reduce the bible to a series of bullet points is key. Once we recognize that salvation is a cosmic story about the restoration of relationships, then the bullet points fade into the background, and the unfolding drama of the vindication of God through the Crucified Lord comes to the fore, at least that is the way I see it. The problem with living out the Christian language in skillful performance is that it often goes unnoticed. Or it is confused with some other sort of skillful performance. This happens not only on the individual level but also on the corporate level, because all of us don't live skillfully enough. When we model our language upon Jesus' own faithfulness to God's plan, we end up with a performance akin to Donald Trump as the lead, in Brechts' Three Penny Opera; somewhat less than convincing. But this perhaps is what stuck with me about Dan's essay: that our faithful performance of the Word, is always by the power of the Spirit. And that while we seek to live a life of faithful performance, even when we fail, and our performance gets all muddled up, it is through the power of the Spirit that we are able to offer a glimpse of love to the stranger.

Inherency Now!

Perhaps it was inspired by Bart Ehrman's presence on the Daily Show or blame it on the Joni Mitchell song Both Sides, Now that itunes decided to play; but whatever the reasons may be, I seem to think that Chris Tilling has some sensible things to say on the propositional truth of the bible and inherency. Check it out here and here.

Note: He does have the added advantage of living in a country that has some of the cheapest yet tastiest coffee in the world, this certianly must help his thought process along!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Does Bono Read Cornel?

At the heart of the human condition is a sense of terror, profound sadness, and sorrow; 'It is a kind of vertigo, a dizziness, a sense of being staggered by the darkness that one sees in the human condition, the human predicament.'

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Nature of Gifts

A gift more often than not means that the receiver will in fact have to give something back in return for acceptance of the gift. This is pretty obvious, even in our culture, but it was perhaps even more obvious in the first century world of patron and clients. So what then is the difference between a loan and a gift? The difference is not that obligations are absent, but rather, that with a gift, obligations are not specified in advance. There is however what Volf calls a "pure" gift, a gift that is given without any expectations whatsoever.

So what kind of gifts does God give? Is there an expectation to God's gifts in which we must repay them in some way? Or more to the point are we even able to give gifts to God?

Volf opens up some very interesting questions on the nature of Gifts, and while I know Derrida has some interesting stuff on gifts, I will restrain myself and stick with Volf. (Loud applause heard throughout cyberspace)

Volf argues that we are incapable of giving anything that obliges God to give us something in return. In order to oblige God to reciprocate we would have to give God something before he gives to us. But since everything we have is from God this is impossible. Our gifts don't oblige God in anyway, but do God's gifts oblige us in some way?

We also cannot return gifts to God because God already has everything. So if we cannot return anything to God does this mean God cannot receive anything from us? Volf states:

"But rather than receiving something God needs but doesn't have, what God receives is delight - the lover's delight at the sight of the beloved whose very existence is that lover's gift. What God also receives is pain - the lover's pain when love has been betrayed."

This lead us to the logic of Romans 12.1 is, "You have received; therefore you should present a sacrifice." But what sort of sacrifice…

- Pgs 39-42

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ark Found!

Jim West and Chris Tilling have both claimed that the evidence is overwhelming and researchers have found Noah's Ark, I agree the evidence looks formidable; however I think I might have spotted something in the bottom right corner.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Emerging from Emergent...

Some important thoughts on racial reconciliation going on here, go read them now!

Friday, March 03, 2006

God as Giver

In the first chapter Volf is concerned with the gods we create in our own image. He states that:

'Yet the Most powerful and seductive images of God are not the ones we craft in the privacy of our hearts. They are the ones that seep into our minds as we watch TV, read books, go shopping at the mall, or socialize with our neighbors. Slowly and imperceptibly, the one true God begins acquiring the features of the gods of this World. For instance, our God simply gratifies our desires rather than reshaping them in accordance with the beauty of God’s own character. Our God then kills enemies rather than dying on their behalf as God did in Jesus Christ.'[1]

Two common (mis)conceptions of God that Volf wants to expose are those of god the negotiator and god as Santa Clause. God the negotiator is a god who is petitioned conditionally, if you give me X now, I promise Y later. This god is prominent especially in times of crisis, but certainly not limited to such times. The main problem with this conception is that it necessitates that we have something to negotiate with. The other problem is that even if we could broker a deal with God, an all powerful being can break any negotiated contract, we have no power to make sure God keeps his end of the bargain. The main point Volf is trying to make is that God doesn't make deals. God gives.

God as Santa Claus is a god that showers us with gifts. He does not lay down any prior conditions to the receiving of gifts. In fact he comes out of nowhere, showers us with gifts, then returns to nowhere. This is the god that is most akin to consumptive materialistic culture many of us find ourselves in. God gives freely, solves our problems, grants our wishes, and fulfills us. The problem with this conception of god is that it ignores what it means to be created in the image of God. It forgets that God creates with purpose. It fails to remember that we were created to be like God, not in all his divinity, but like God in 'true righteousness and holiness' (Eph 4.24). We are to be like God in loving our enemies, we are to be like God in loving our Neighbors, and we are to be like God in humility (renunciation of status). Volf comments that 'to live well as a human being is to live in sync with who God is and how God acts'.[2] 'The Santa Claus God gives simply so we can have and enjoy things; the true God gives so we can become joyful givers and not just self-absorbed receivers. God the giver has made us to be givers and obliges us therefore to give'.[3]

[1] Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 22.

[2] Volf, Free of Charge, 27.

[3] Volf, Free of Charge, 28.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The God, Who Forgives

This is a homily from Tim Gombis. He read this a while ago at the Red Brick Church, Springfield Ohio.

God, Who Forgives

Isaiah 43:18-25
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Mark 2:1-12
Psalm 32 or 32:1-8

Our texts for this week reveal to us the logic of God's forgiveness. They also reveal to us our own ways with forgiveness and perhaps why we have such a hard time coming to grips with God's outrageous grace. These texts serve as a pleasant and stunning surprise, a blessed rebuke.

We foolishly think that we have God all figured out, don't we? We think that we know how He deals with sinners, what He's like, how He thinks. What is God like? Well, He's mostly like us, except totally huge, and He knows everything. And He told us what is right and wrong, so if we choose to do wrong, He'll be rightly outraged at us - because He told us not to do it, and we should've known better.

But, thankfully, He has made a way for us to be forgiven, and if we're willing to clean up our act, make things right, He's willing to consider taking us back. But He'll keep His eye on us, and if we blow it again..., well, we might want to read the fine print in our contract.

We may not lay out our understanding of God so explicitly, but we often feel that this is what God is like, right? He's very huge and powerful, and his heart isn't as small as that of the Grinch who stole Christmas - whose heart was two sizes too small - but surely it's not THAT big - after all, there's gotta be some limit to forgiveness and grace.

In thinking about God in this way, we have managed to become complete idolaters; we have made God in our own image. What is He like? What's His forgiveness like? Probably like ours.

Scripture, however, turns this idolatry on its head, giving us a true glimpse into the ways of God with His people. We will discover what these texts tell us about the forgiveness of God by asking and answering three questions.

First, why does God forgive sins? Because this is who He is! It is His identity, according to the final verse in our Isaiah passage: "I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." It is who God is, it is what He does - it's His calling card; He forgives sins!

And He loves to forgive! Our Isaiah text depicts God going to great lengths to overcome our sin and to arrange situations in such a way so that we might more effectively enjoy His love. In fact, what makes God angry in the Isaiah passage, is that Israel refused to give God opportunities to forgive. "Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel!"

So God forgives because it is his very nature to do so - and he DELIGHTS to forgive sinners.

These texts force us to ask a second question: Is this really so? How can we be sure about this? Does he really love to forgive, or does He do it dragging His feet? When God forgives sins, does he do it while rolling his eyes?

And we want to know, because this is how WE forgive, isn't it? "Well, I know I'm supposed to forgive you, so I guess I do. But I don't have to like it!! And I don't have to like you!! I'm still angry for what you've done to me, so you need to spend a few more days in the doghouse until you get completely back in my favor."

And we think that by holding on to bitterness against those who have wronged us we're only showing proper righteous anger at sin. "It's a godly anger at sin, alright?!"

So, in the somewhat mystifying words of the 2 Corinthians text, our forgiveness is "yes and no." We do, but we don't... We forgive..., but we'll just see how things go.

But God is completely unlike us - He is faithful and His word is NOT "yes and no," but YES!!

How do we know it's "yes" and not "yes and no?"

Look at Jesus!! Listen to how outrageous this is - God Himself came into the world, fully participated in the broken human condition, and died. And God raised Jesus from the dead to confirm His promises - to show that he is SERIOUS about forgiveness, SERIOUS about redemption and restoration.

God is fully committed to us - He is not of two minds!! He is not mostly committed to us, but we'll see how things go.

Jesus is the YES of God to us. There is no indecision with God toward his people.

"In Jesus it is always 'Yes.' For in him every one of God's promises is a 'yes.' For this reason it is through Jesus that we say the 'Amen', to the glory of God."

And this is gospel - this is good news, because we know ourselves. We know our sinful hearts, and it is so easy to believe the lie that it's a long road back to God's good graces. It's hard work getting back into his favor. But this is only true if God is like us - thanks be to God that He is not.

The third question that these texts raise and answer is; What must be done to obtain forgiveness?

This is answered in several ways in these Scripture passages, but I love how the Gospel reading answers it - especially when we think about how we usually read these gospel texts.

We typically read this scene where Jesus heals the man lowered through the roof in such an unreal manner. The guys run their friend up to the roof on a stretcher, remove a skylight, install a system of pulleys to the roof and smoothly lower him down - and, of course, he's reclining comfortably - and plop him nicely down in front of Jesus who then conducts this interchange with him and the scribes, to the quiet approval of all those watching, who close the scene with the polite applause of spectators at a golf tournament.

This is, of course, pure fantasy. Think about this scene. It's from Mark, a very gritty Gospel - full of action and pulsing with tension. These men hear that Jesus is at home, so they grab their friend and carry him down narrow streets, bumping his head on stone walls as they twist and turn down the alleyways, and arrive at Jesus' house. They're probably all disheveled and their lame friend is very uncomfortable and very likely in great pain, at this point.

"Ugh! The house is crowded, what're we going to do?! Let's go through the roof!"

"What?! Are you crazy?!"

So they drag him up to the roof, tear apart the roof, with stuff falling down all over the people inside, who are probably not at all happy that these strangers are doing a demo-job on Jesus' house - and while Jesus is teaching!

But so what?! We gotta get to Jesus! They lower him! With what!? We don't know - rope? His clothes? Again, this guy can't be all that comfortable at this point. But, as it happens, there he is, lying on the floor, on his mat.

And then what happens...

Jesus, taking note of their faith, says to the man, "your sins are forgiven."

This story is so familiar to us, we have completely missed how bizarre this is!! Think of all the commotion and the dust and dirt, stuff from the roof falling all over the people down below, people shooting dirty looks up at the guys who just lowered some street person down onto Jesus' IKEA coffee table..., it's crazy!

There is so much going on here, but we must take note of two things:

First, the phrase "when Jesus saw their faith." How often have we read this as, "when Jesus saw their qualifications?" Why did Jesus heal the man, we ask? Because of their great faith - Jesus looked into their hearts and saw that they had great faith!! So we too must have great faith!

NO!! What displayed their faith? Simply this - that they knew they needed something, and that Jesus could help them. That's it. "We're in need, Jesus is near, let's go."

Just like Psalm 32, v. 6: "I confessed my sin, and you forgave the guilt of my sin." That's it - recognition of our sin, forgiveness granted by God. There's no middle step of elaborate performance or credential-checking.

The second thing to note is Jesus' response to witnessing this bizarre instance of breaking and entering that unfolds before him: The dust starts to settle, the people all look at Jesus, He looks at the men, and says to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

No discussion, no questions, no checking of credentials, no theological sparring. No fancy introductory speech, just a total outcast lowered into Jesus' living room, staring dumbfounded at Jesus while he has his sins forgiven by the King of creation.

The lesson here is this: God's hair-trigger response is set to forgive. Call on the Lord, and He will forgive. Intrude on Jesus' personal space, make yourself a nuisance to Jesus, and he'll forgive your sins.

On what basis does God forgive? Recognize your need and call on him and he'll forgive. End of discussion.

God delights to forgive, is angry that his people won't give him opportunities to forgive! God loves to show mercy, so "be glad you righteous, and rejoice in the Lord."

Series on Lenten Reflections

The next 40 days or so I will be offering my reflections on Miroslav Volf's book Free of Charge, which happens to be the Archbishop's (Rowan Williams) book chioce for the 2006 Lenten season. Please if you have this book and plan on going through it, comment whatever and whenever you want, even if you don't have the book your comments are more than welcome! But what a great excuse to go out and buy it, and join me!

Here is Rowan's take:

This is a book about worshiping the true God and letting the true God act in us. It tells us as plainly as possible that the true God is a God who cannot stop giving and forgiving, and that our knowledge of this true God is utterly bound up with our willingness to receive from the hand of God the liberty to give and forgive.[1]


[1] Miroslav Volf's, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace: The Archbishop's Official 2006 Lent Book (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 9.