Sunday, February 29, 2004

Saw The Passion tonight with a bunch from the church. Not the sort of film where one could say "I enjoyed it". I did think it was wonderfully done. I've seen and heard a few criticisms from Christians who seem to think that nothing that isn't directly recorded in the Bible could have happened. I think they are correct. This proves that none of us currently exist.

Actually, the satan theme I think was the odd part, but I didn't find it too distracting. Actually, I was thankful at many points that there were distractions from the main theme of the film since it was so painful throughout.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

I apologize that some portion of this is rude, but here's a site which has a bunch of tv shots from business closings in my area over that last couple of days. They made the mistake of letting anyone write their own closing announcements, so of course some internet geek types saw this as a wonderful opportunity. You do have to click on each of the items yourself.
Went out last night to see the Houghton College choir sing in Colfax, about an hour away. Was well worth it. They sounded terrific. Great music from around the world, including a marvelous Mongolian piece to start the program. There's nothing like live music. Of course, based on my own experiences, you only get about half of what a piece of music has to offer (if that) unless you perform it yourself. As I watched the young folks on the stage I remembered some of the absolutely wonderful experiences I've had performing with large ensembles. Just nothing like it.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Some good thoughts from someone older than I with which I am pretty much in agreement. Our church does offer children's church, but some families ignore it. Also, there are three services, so those who work in children's church don't have to miss anything. But I do think it is a good practice for the kids to get into to sit through the worship service. I've learned in my own experience that one only learns when things are difficult, and siting through worship is difficult for kids, thus they learn patience and, with any luck, attentiveness to God's word.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Contest is now closed!

In other news, we did some furniture exchanging aroung the house this past week. The lovely Lenise decided we needed a futon. We both agreed that we didn't feel like spending a lot of money right at the moment. Poking around eBay revealed a futon in Winston-Salem with the bidding at a measly 10 bucks. So I thought, "well, gee, I could bid $20 and maybe get this things REALLY cheap." Well, as it turns out I did in fact win it (for $19.50). My first thought was, "oh, great, now I'm the proud owner of a $20 futon." So we borrowed a truck and drove out to pick it up. I'll leave out the interesting but embarrassing details of that trip (I could be induced to tell, but you'll have to bribe me) which ended more or less successfully with us having a cheap futon.

Moving the futon in involved moving out a broken down recliner and an aged sofa-sleeper, so we had a couple of friends come over to yank the old bad stuff out and move the new, not quite so bad stuff in. They went home, I returned the truck, and we were left with two pieces of furniture in the back yard. I really had no idea what to do with them. The chair I wouldn't have paid a nickle for and the sofa was pretty heavy. I figured I should put them out front, just in case some good/greedy samaritan should decide to pick them up, otherwise I'd have to call someone. Someone. That mysterious someone who picks up worthless furniture to donate it to unkown charitable causes. Plus it is supposed to rain today, so the pressure is on.

As it turned out, I was saved by person or persons unknown who did in fact cart the stuff away before I went out this morning. Now I'm just wondering if they'll come back to get the feet I took off the sofa before we pulled it out.
I think this might seem funny to a few of us. Guess who is pulling thestrings behind our current puppet government? I'll give you thre guesses. (This may be hard if you didn't know that the country was being run by such a conspiracy.)

I suppose this is funny to me 'cuz I have just assumed the movement has more or less either died out or been transformed into other things.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Alright, up to five entries now. Better get in while you still can. Added a link on the side in case things get down too far on the page.
If you were here right now (and in a moment you'll give thanks that you aren't) I'd read to you a couple of chapters from Trollope's Last Chronicle of Barset. This is the last of the six Barsetshire novels--I will have read all but the first--and the author has brought back all of my favorite characters. The greatest of these, in my mind, is the Rev Josiah Crawley, perpetual curate of Hogglestock, a parish as unprepossesing as its name would suggest. The rev. has been accused of a crime (stealing a check and pssing it off as his own money), and though all the circumstantial evidence points toward his guilt, the reader is led to believe that such a thing would not be within his character. Rev Crawley is very poor, but would certainly rather starve to death than to even ask to borrow monry, let alone steal it. Indeed, the one major flaw in his character is that he takes great pride in his lowly position, refusing to accept any charity other than that his wife procures without his knowledge.

Rev Crawley his been summoned by Bishop and Mrs Proudie, mostly the latter, to account for the fact that he refused to accept the minister sent by the bish. to replace him pending his trial for theft. Walking the 15 miles to Barchester (refusing the offer of a horse along the way), Crawley meets with his bishop and lets him know in no uncertain terms that the bishop has no authoriy to remove him from his parish unless authorized to do so by an ecclesiastical court. He also more or less tell Mrs Proudie to stuff it, if I may use a modern idiom. You have no idea how inspired the writing here was. Just left me grinning like an idiot.

Don't get to senility without reading Trollope.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Hmmm, looks like relics are making a comeback. Does it make any differene, really, if you know for certain they are fake when you buy them?

Thursday, February 19, 2004

In a desparate effort to amuse myself, educate myself, and see if anyone is paying attention, I now bring you

The (non-Seinfeldian) Contest

Here's the deal. I'm always on the lookout for book recommendations, but it can be hard to tell sometimes who to trust for these. My proposal is that each of my readers may submit one and only one book they would like me to read this year. I will promise to read each book submitted to this contest. Whosoever's book I decide is the most wondrous will not only receive the glory of being named "best-recommender of the year", but will also receive a free book in return of their own choosing (subject to a limit of, say $18). If the book you name is one I have already read you may resubmit. The entries will close on March 19th or whenevr I receive the 10th book suggestion, whichever comes first. Any questions? Good. Let's begin.
Some folks just don't trust the banks, I suppose.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Also finished Trollope's The Small House at Allington today (I read a lot). Trollope cracks me up. I just love his style--makes me feel like he's sitting in a chair telling me the story. The book starts, "Of course there was a Great House at Allington. How otherwise should there have been a small house?" Reading Trollope is a great practice to get into. I don't quitre know why "morality tales" fell out of favor in the 20th century. It's kind of nice to get some life lesson in novel form--helps to flesh out some principles we say we believe in.
Finished reading Technopoly last night (wow!), and started today on Dalrymple's Life at the Bottom. Anyone read this? It is quite disturbing. I keep hoping to see that he's making the whole thing up, but I'm sure he isn't. He sure does have a wonderfuly black sense of humor though.

Monday, February 16, 2004

David DeSilva (speaking of Hebrews 6:4-8) says, "The author of Hebrews does not operate with the theology of Ephesians, where "being saved" is spoken of as a past fact, much less with a complex theology of the stages of salvation constructed from a harmonization of Romans and John. here the ideological presupposition that "any interpretation is unscriptural if it conflicts with scripture" [reference to J B Rowell] prevents us from allowing the author of Hebrews to conceptualize the work of God or the life of believers any differently from his more popular colleagues in the NT. The result is that the construct that is called "God's revealed plan of salvation" (the sythesis of the more popular texts like John, Romans, and Ephesians) wins out over anything that the author of Hebrews might have to say about that plan. The dominance of the interpreter's ideology is especially apparent here, since no attempt is ever made to adjust the "plan" to the expressions of Hebrews, but always the reverse."

Since I'm home today, I figured I have no excuse not to share some of this stuff. DeSilva has a fascinating take on the warnings of Hebrews 6, one that is certainly fresh (to me) as well as plausible (to me as well). Goes like this. The relationship of God to man in the mediterranean world was seen generally in the terms of a patron/client relationship. Belive me when I say that there is a whole lot hat comes out of this understanding, as well as a lot of evidence from writings of the period to support the thesis. Short version is that a powerful person (patron), in order to increase his honor (or glory), bestows favors on less fortunate people called clients. The act of bestowing favor is called, of course, grace (charis). The client is indebted to the patron, and from that time on should feel gratitude. The proper ongoing attitude of the client is loyalty or faithfulness (pistis), which is usually translated as "faith".

All of this was part of the everyday world for people in the 1st century (in that region). How this helps our understanding of Hebrews 6 is illustrated well by Seneca. In writing of the expectations of clients he writes, "not to return gratitude for benefits is a disgrace, and the whole world counts it as such", and later "'What, then,' you say, 'shall the ingrate go unpunished?' . . . Do you imagine that qualities that are loated do go unpunished, or that there is any punishment greater than public hate? The penalty of the ingrate is that he does not dare to accept a benefit from anyone, that he does not dare to give to anyone, that he is a mark, or t least thinks he is a mark, for all eyes, that he has lost all perception of a most desireable and pleasan experience." Also, Dio Chrysostom wrote that peole who honor benefactors are regarded by all as worthy of favor but that those who insult benefactors will be esteemed by no one. (references etc on DeSilva, p226)

Numerous statements could be brought to support this line, both from the scriptures an elsewhere. Of course the example Hebrews gives is the one of Esau (ch 12). Once Esau sold his birthright, he was certainly sorry he had done so, but the damage was done. He had insulted his father and there was no going back; and the argument of Hebrews up to this point is about how worth/honorable the Son of God is. Calvin put it this way in his commentary: ". . it is unworthy of God to hold up his son to scorn by pardoning them that abondon him."

Now here's where things get interesting. We want to say, "but surely this puts an unacceptable limit on the forgiveness of God." We have to go back to Seneca again. While the ungrateful client should no longer expect a benefit (from his patron or any other), from the patron's perspective things are different. People were not at all disturbed by the idea that benefaction was and should be perceived entirely differently from the point of view of the giver and the recepient. The good patron gives without expectation of return for his gift, counting anything that does come back as a bonus. Specifically in this subject of ingratitude, Seneca say something quite interesting: "although we ought to be careful to confer benefits by preference upon those who will be likely to respond with gratitude, yet there are some [gracious deeds] that we shall do even if we expect from them poor results, and we shall bestow benefits upon those whom we not only think will be, but we know have been, ungrateful."

To apply all of this, and again you would do well to read DeSilva as he says all of this well, while we do in fact know of God's long-suffering and patience and forgiveness, when it comes to moral decision making in our lives, or to put it more in the context of Hebrews, when we are being presured to compromise with the world, we need to hide such knowledge from ourselves, to forget ot for the moment. This is what the author is doing. We mut never presume upon God. We must not say, "my job is to sin and God's job is to forgive." God will not be mocked. Hebrews gives no particular indication of where precisely we wold "cross the line" with God, but I think it does given indication that we should always keep such a line in mind with some trepidation.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

David DeSilva's commentary on Hebrews, Perseverance in Gratitude is so good I can hardly stand it. I've been telling my wife about it al week. Not only does he write well, not only does he interact with all the major scholars, not only does he have a good knowledge of classical literature which he brings to bear, but he also has thoughtful things to say about how we might go about appropriating and applying the teachings of Hebrews to life today.

His section on the warning of Heb 6 was just outstanding, and certainly the most sensible thing I've seen to date. I may share a bit of this later. Let's just say for now that a good knowledge of social institutions of the 1st century adds a LOT to reading Hebrews.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Have you ever wanted to try being a surgeon but just didn't have time for all that pesky medical training? Just click and go.
A Modest Proposal

I'd like to impose a 12 month moratorium on the word magisterial. It has been exceding its quota lately and needs time to rest and recuperate. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

My review of Frank Matera's book, New Testament Ethics, is up now at amazon. If you want to inflate my ego you can drop me a helpful vote. For some odd reason I was thinking about reviewing the book the whole time I was reading it, so this is a little better thought out than many of my reviews, I suppose, or at least longer.
But when it came to writing, Theuth declared, "Here is an accomplishment, my lord the King, which will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians. I have discovered a sure receipt for memory and wisdom." To this, Thaumus replied, "Theuth, my paragon of inventors, the discoverer of an art is not the best judge of the good or harm which will accrue to those who practice it. So it is in this; you, who are the father of writing, have out of fondness for your off-spring attributed to it quite the opposite of its real function. Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their own internal resources. What you have discovered is a receipt for recollection, not for memory. And as for wisdom, your pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgable when they are for the most part quite ignorant. And because they are filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom they will be a burden to society.
Pretty good article here by prof. Fish, reminding me of the fact that the PURPOSE of education is anything but clearly agreed upon. There was a gentleman I heard on the radio several months ago whose name I have sadly forgotten, a former NYC teacher of the year and now general scholar on the history and pracice of the american educational system, whotalked at some length about the open and hidden goals of american educational system. The hidden goal, he stated, comes from 19th c. Prussia, namely the separation of the youth into leaders and workers. The schools which produce tomorrows leaders, or more accurately, the schools which HAVE produced today's leaders, follow methods which while not secret, neither are they the ones followed by our public schools.

The fact that they are not secret I think might be proven by Mr Edward Humes here (though I have not read this yet), giving an account of a school system which decided, quite on their own, that if they wanted to stop being such a crappy school, they needed to completely change their model.
Sign at the local theatre in Durham:

Passion of Christ
Now On Sale

Monday, February 09, 2004

My apologies to those who have been looking here for something resembling consistent blogging habits. You must be new around here and you'll get used to it soon enough. Be assured that I still love all of you more than cabbage.

Friday, February 06, 2004

And in more juvenile news, according to this story, due to the Janet Jackson incident, there will now be an audio delay at the presentation of the SAG awards. If I were her, I'd complain about that one.
Mail Bonanza! Yesterday we somehow managed to get mail for 7 different people. We got three pieces for similar addresses, two people listed for our address somehow but not us, one letter which was properly addressed to us but actually a letter to someone in Ohio, and of course our actual mail.

Wonder if this is some kind of record.