Wednesday, June 30, 2004

If you ever listened to Van Halen's first album, you should check this out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Let me also say that this is good advice for everyone, not just Canadians.
A Brief Introduction to Presbyterianism (via Kris10)

Monday, June 28, 2004

Back when many of us were discussing Mel Gibson and the issue of portrayals of Jesus I had asked a few times how people interpreted Galatians 3:1

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified

The last time I wrote to Stan Hauerwas, I asked him, among other things, for his thoughts on TPOTC. I like his response:

I didn't think Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was as bad as most people thought it was. My deepest problems concerning the movie are about whether film is a medium that appropriately embodies the Gospel. We become spectators to violence, and I don't think that's what the gospel wants us to be. I thought also the separation of the Passion from the life is always a problem. I made the point [not sure where] that the medium is not appropriate to the Gospel, and was asked what the appropriate medium is? Of course I said the liturgy. That just seems so obvious but people seem to miss it.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Had a very fun (role-playing) gaming session last night with Tom, David and Todd. Todd is quite the stickler for historical details. The highlight of the evening, after we had vanquished various monsters and three of the four serpents guarding the tower containing the obligatory princess, was the serpent of riddles. We had three riddles to answer, all of which came from a vulume entitled The Earliest English Poems. The riddle were, in fact, pretty hard, but we managed to come up with all three, though of course with a few clues from the GM.

Today our Ukraine team and the team from our church heading to Peru were something of a focus for the church. We were officially "commissioned" during the morning service, and in the evening there was a special prayer meeting for us. Lots of loving concern was expressed about Lenise and her care while I will be away. It's great to be at a church that loves us so well.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Update for those worried about the fate of the ducklings.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

My theory is that if EVERYONE is buying a certain book, there must be something wrong with it. Looks like I was right in this case.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

For those who have not seen this yet, John Frame's article, Machen's Warrior Children, spells out pretty evenly the majority of the controversies which have afflicted the reformed and presbyterian denominations of america over the past seventy years. Take a peek.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I put up some of my reading from this year on amazon lists. I'd like directly, but amazon links often defeat me. I'm sure you know how to find me there. A few things didn't make it. I read a few early 70's sci-fi anthologies which I didn't even bother looking for. The rest of the Patrick O'Brian series will have to wait for the next list. You might notice I put up a couple of books where I read somthing different by that author but amazon didn't list the book I read. Also not making the list, and not listed at amazon are J S Mill's Ethical Writings, and a collection of four plays by Giradoux which I enjoyed quite a bit.

Monday, June 14, 2004

I've thought of several things to post in the last couple of days, but I keep thinking that some things are left better unsaid. I think I can say this: we had a meeting at our church last night to discuss a very difficult situation. Being a conflict-avoider person, I was dreading this meeting and thinking about not going at all, but good sense won out and I showed up. By the time I left I was thinking that this may have been the best meeting of any kind I have been to, in terms of people being honest and kind and thoughtful and wise. I am so thankful to be part of a church that has it's head on straight. I had envisioned all sorts of dreadful things, none of which transpired. I'm pretty sure only one reader (Daniel Kirk) actually knows anything about this (since he was there too) but it would be fine if we kept it that way.

I have really been fighting the urge to gossip about this. I don't think of myself as being very prone to gossip, but sometimes when you learn something bad, you you feel this incredible desire to start unburdening yourself. Talking about things in the right time and right place and with the right people, as I alluded to above, can be wonderful. Talking (talebearing) in the wrong way brings unnecessary destruction and misunderstanding.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Due to the generosity of my brother, we received a copy of the John Wayne film, Red River, and do to the gentle but repeated prodding of said brother, we decided to watch it last night.

Like the old Gary Cooper movie we also saw recently, Fighting Caravans, Red River is a rather unromantic look at the "old west." Wayne plays the very determined and very violent Thomas Dunson, a man who builds the first big cattle ranch in Texas with his "own two hands". A rather young Montgomery Clift plays his protege, Matt Garth. Together with their team of ranchers they move their now large heard northward to sell in Missouri. Most of the film takes place on this journey.

Wayne's character knows there is a railroad in Missouri and is determined to head there at any cost. He signs the men up, telling those at the ranch that if they any reservations they may stay home, but he won't put up with any quitters. A few stay behind to tend to their families. Not long after the group heads north, some dissension breaks out over whether it would be better and safer and perhaps quicker to take the cattle to Abilene, Kansas. Since neither Mr Dunson nor any of the men present have seen the railroad in Kansas with their own eyes, Dunson refuses to credit the existence of a railroad there and annouinces that they will go to MO as planned. The dissension leads to Dunson shooting three of the dissenters.

Wayne's continued hard headedness eventually leads to a sort of mutiny with all of the men and catlle heading to KS, leaving Dunson with a couple of horses and the promise of revenge. The spectre of this revenge haunts the men all the way to Abilene. In the climax of the film the cattle are sold and at the very end Dunson and Garth are reconciled through the intercession of a woman who has fallen for Garth. Dunson acknowledges that Garth is the son and heir he never had and is unable to kill him.

The ending, while being sensible and "happy", seemed somewhat out of character with the dark tone of the rest of the film. About half way though I realized that this movie was essentially a political story of the most basic, Hobbesian sort. What is it that holds men together in society with each other? Is it personal loyalty? Fear of violence? Fear of outsiders? (Indians in this case) Working together to acheive some goal? All of these were shown and tested in this story in rather vivid ways.

Go watch it for yourself and let me know what you think of it.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Last fall I stopped by the Chapel Hill Public Library booksale and ended up with a paper grocery bag full of books for $3. As I took them home I wondered to myself if I had just picked these up because they were cheap or if they would actually be useful and stimulating. The bulk of what I got were sci-fi anthologies and novels from the early 70's. I've read a few of these and found them interesting more often than not.

Among the non-fiction I picked up, though, I have found some real treasures. I mentioned a few weeks ago Will Campbell's book, Race and the Renewal of the Church, which was excellent. This week I read a collection entitled The Philosophy of History in Our Time, ed Hans Meyerhoff. The essays in it are from the most thoughtful historians and philosophers who wrote about history from roughly 1880 to 1950. These would be Dilthey, Croce, Ortega y Gassett, Collingwood, Pirenne, Toynbee, Becker, Beard, Lovejoy, Aron, Dewey, (Morton) White, Nagel, W H Walsh, Butterfield, Berlin, Burckhardt, Bullock, Popper, (Reinhold) Niebuhr, and Jaspers. Nearly all of the essay were intriguing to me, exploring the questions of whether history has meaning (of its own), what one studies when one studies history, etc.

One section I found particularly striking was this by Karl Popper (somewhat edited to save space):

How do most people come to use the term "history"? . . . They learn about it in school and at the university. They read books about it. They see what is treated in the books under the name "history of the world" or "the history of mankind," and they get used to looking upon it as a more of less definite series of facts. And these facts constitute, they believe, the history of mankind.

But we have already seen that the realm of facts is infinitely rich, and that there must be selection. According to our interests, we could, for instance, write about the history of art; or of feeding habits; or of typhus fever . . .Certainly none of these is the history of mankind (nor all of them taken together). What people have in mind when they speak of the history of mankind is, rather, the history of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires, and so on, down to our own day. In other words: They speak about the history of mankind, but what they mean, and what they have learned about in school, is the history of political power.

There is no history of mankind, there is only an indefinite number of histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world. But this, I hold, is an offence against every decent conception of mankind. It is hardly better than to treat the history of embezzlement or of robbery or of poisoning as the history of mankind. For the history of power politics is nothing but the history of international crime and mass murder (including, it is true, some of the attempts to suppress them). This history is taught in schools, and some of the greatest criminals are extolled as its heroes.

. . .But why has just the history of power been selected, and not, for example, that of religion, or of poetry? There are several reasons. One is that power affects us all, and poetry only a few. Another is that men are inclined to worship power. But there can be no doubt that the worship of power is one of the worst kinds of human idolatries, . . . A third reason why power politics has been made the core of "history" is that those in power wanted to be worshipped and could enforce their wishes. Many historians wrote under the supervision of the emperors, the generals, and the dictators.

I know these views will meet with the strongest opposition from many sides, including some apologists for Christianity; for although there is hardly anything in the New Testament to support this doctrine, it is often considered a part of Christian dogma that God reveals Himself in history; that history has meaning; and that its meaning is the purpose of God. Historicism* is thus held to be a necessary element of religion. But I do not admit this. I contend that this view is pure idolatry and superstition, not only from the point of view of a rationalist or humanist but from the Christian point of view itself.

He goes on to explain that last phrase for about 3 pages, so I won't burden you with it now. The jist of it is that identifying God with "history", as the term is normally used, puts God into an unholy alliance with power and evil. He points to the sufferings and crucifixion of Jesus as the opposite of what we mean by history.

* Popper uses this term to mean the idea of a unified meaning of history according to a theological or rational law or set of laws, which is more or less the complete opposite of the way the term has come to be used by others.
I never really imagined a social occasion ispired by Wallace and Grommit, but I guess my imagination is too limited.
You know what stinks? Really bad news. (I guess you probably already knew that)

I think all I should say is that it is about someone outside of my family and is the sort of thing that I probably shouldn't publicize by mentioning it here. Somebody doing something which they should not have done. Probably pointless even to write at all here, but I'm just really bummed.

Monday, June 07, 2004

I'm looking into the idea of teaching piano lessons. Since I've not done this before, I've been doing some research this morning. Seems like there's a lot more to it than I had thought. I'd still like to try it, but I think I'm going to need to do some prep work for a while. The one largest site devoted to the topic recommends having a music degree AND sitting in with master piano teachers for a year before starting. I don't think that's really an option for me, but I would like to be prepared for dealing with beginning children and adults. Also, I probably need to take some lessons myself, since I'm not that great. Life is always more complicated than it seems at first glance.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

My very fine friend, Jamie Boyce, loaned me her copy of Peter Leithart's A House for My Name, which I just now finished reading. Jamie is a grad student at the University Next to Carrboro, and one of our team members going to Ukraine with me. What a terrific book. It is an overview of the story of the Old Testament and it is amazing how many thoughtful topics are raised in less than 300 pages. The book is also structured as a study guide, making it a perfect tool for small or large group discussion. I didn't actually try to answer all the study question since jamie wanted the book back.

The last chapter deals with the book of John, tying in many of the OT themes. Something that occurred to me while reading about John's passion narrative is the emphasis on Jesus speaking truthfully while still being rejected and mocked by the other characters of the story. This is similar to a point I have picked up from Hauerwas and other "post-liberal" theologians, namely that we tend to think that the gospel/christian teachings are the sort of thing that any reasonable person would believe if they are presented in the right way. The theologians show why this is not the case in theory. Jesus showed (and told) that it is not the case in practice either.

In other news, I couldn't have been more pleased yesterday that I got a chance to talk with a certain professor of theological ethics about my mission trip and that he gave me some support money. It is a very difficult thing to beg for money, but something that is, I have learned, an integral part of ministry. The professor agreed wholeheartedly with that sentiment. He said, "begging is part of Christianity; we pray, after all."

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Interesting interview with Wright here.
As a public service, I draw your attention to this. Now you know where to go if such a need arises. You are welcome.