Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'm Finally Noticed!

I'm proud to announce that one of the royalty-free images I've posted on my much-neglected flickr photostream was recently noticed by a graphic designer for a small college in Scotland. The photo he took interest in was a picture of a Dalmation that I took while at my sister-in-law's wedding in North Carolina. The gentlemen asked permission to use my picture for, what appears to be, a series of anti-smoking posters sponsored by the school, and I was so honored for being selected that I couldn't help but agree to let him use it. I've uploaded a copy of the poster here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ref and RadOx Redux - Plus Marion!

Regarding this, I know I'm just a big baby. Just cause something takes a little more effort than normal to comprehend, doesn't make it worthless. In fact, in a way, it makes it more worthwhile. (As there is much to be gained from having to work to learn.)

I spent the brunt of yesterday pleasantly working through a very large chunk of the book and I'm pleased to say it's given me a lot to think about, and yet - and yet it was not even the highlight of my day. No, the reading that really touched me, that really struck a chord, was the gift of one Jean-Luc Marion. For a couple years now, Jean-Luc's little essay, God Without Being, has been quietly resting in my Amazon Wishlist, and there it still waits for some kind soul to send it my way at their own expense. But in the glories of providence, I happened to be at the library of my alma mater and, to my joy, came across it while perusing the BT section. And now I have it for at least the next two weeks. Taking a break from the polemics of the Radical Orthodox and the Dooyeweerdians, I took a peek at the Marion text, and by the first paragraph I can already tell I'm going to love it. The text is simply lovely - for so many reasons, and I'll share none here, but instead let the reader judge for himself. From the "envoi":
gwbOne must admit that theology, of all writing, certainly causes the greatest pleasure of the text, but the pleasure - unless it have to do with a joy - of transgressing it: from words to the Word, from the Word to words, incessantly and in theology alone, since there alone the Word finds in the words nothing less than a body. The body of the text does not belong to the text, but to the One who is embodied in it. Thus, theological writing always transgresses itself, just as theological speech feeds on the silence in which, at last, it speaks correctly. In other words, to try one's hand at theology requires no other justification than the extreme pleasure of writing. The only limit to this pleasure, in fact, is in the condition of its exercise; for the play from words to the Word implies that theological writing is played in distance, which unites as well as separates the man writing and the Word at hand - the Christ. Theology always writes starting from an other than itself. It diverts the author from himself (thus one can indeed speak of a diversion from philosophy with all good theology); it causes him to write outside of himself, even against himself, since he must write not of what he is, on what he knows, in view of what he wants, but in, for, and by that which he receives and in no case masters. Theology renders its author hypocritical in at least two ways. Hypocritical, in the common sense: in pretending to speak of holy things - "holy things to the holy" - he cannot but find himself, to the point of vertigo, unworthy, impure - in a word, vile. This experience, however, is so necessary that its beneficiary knows better than anyone both his own unworthiness and the meaning of that weakness (the light that unveils it); he deceives himself less than anyone; in fact, here there is no hypocrisy at all: the author knows more than any accuser. He remains hypocritical in another, more paradoxical sense: if authenticity (remembered with horror) consists in speaking of oneself, and in saying only that for which one can answer, no one in a theological discourse, can, or should, pretend to it. For theology consists precisely in saying that for which only another - the Other above all, the Christ who himself does not speak in his own name, but in the name of his Father. Indeed, theological discourse offers its strange jubilation only to the strict extent that it permits and, dangerously, demands of its workman that he speak beyond his means, precisely because he does not speak of himself. Hence the danger of a speech that, in a sense, speaks against the one who lends himself to it. One must obtain forgiveness for every essay in theology. In all senses. [source]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Radically Lame

Sentences like the following have sucked the pleasure out of reading Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition (p. 76):
Second, knowledge is expressed most adequately in formal definition, by which the universal nature of the concrete material substance under consideration is conceived as a predicate constituted by the genus or general kind to which the concrete material substance belongs and a specific difference or differentiating property that the concrete material substance possesses and that specifies further the substance's identity in kind. [source]
Yep - one sentence. Now, only because I studied a little Aristotle in college does that sentence vaguely approximate intelligibility - and that after reading it about five times. But really, is this the real cash value of the Academy: the ability to make a living writing impenetrable prose?

Truth be told, I haven't given up on the book. Some of the essays in there are great. Jamie Smith's piece on the RadOx version of Plato hit the nail on the head, methinks. And I really enjoyed Milbank's discussion of Calvin, but I don't know how much more language in the vein of Sweetman (above) I can take before I give up.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Subtle Change to the Blog

Click here to see my new and much improved weblog.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Jesus and Tabernacle in the Gospel of John

I've recently had the pleasure of reading through the splendid Through New Eyes a second time. Finishing it up about a week ago, I found the following portion worth sharing (pp. 267-9):
TNEOne other point that should be made is this: John's Gospel is not only a commentary on the Tabernacle. John also comments on the various feasts of the Old Testament, and on other matters as well. The Tabernacle is only one dimension, one layer, of his Gospel. With this in mind, let us briefly tour the Tabernacle.

John begins in John 1:14 by saying that "the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." The reference to glory is to the glory-cloud that filled the Tabernacle and was enthroned in it.

John begins where the priest would begin, with the laver of cleansing. Here the priest would wash himself and also the sacrifice before offering it. Jesus is both priest and sacrifice, and also the one who washes His living sacrifices, the Church. Thus, John 1:18-34 concerns the baptism of John the Forerunner. In John 2:1-11, at a wedding Jesus takes water out of "six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification" (2:6) and turns it into wine. In John 2:13-25, Jesus cleanses the Temple. In John 3:1-21, Nicodemus engages Jesus in a discussion of the new birth, of water and the Spirit. In John 3:22-36, John's baptism leads to an argument over purification, and a discussion of Jesus as the Bridegroom. In John 4:1-42, Jesus presents Himself as Bridegroom to a Samaritan woman at a well. In John 4:1-42, Jesus presents Himself as Bridegroom to a Samaritan woman at the well. In John 4:46-54, Jesus restores a dying boy to life at "Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water wine" (4:46). In John 5:1-47, Jesus heals a man at the pool of Bethesda, and then gets into a discussion with the Jews about resurrection. This concludes John's section on the laver, which has revolved around water, purification, baptism, resurrection, and Christ as Bridegroom.

John then turns to the Table of Showbread. In John 6, Jesus feeds the five thousand, calls Himself the bread of life, and tells the people they must eat his Flesh and drink His blood (v. 53). In John 7, Jesus presents himself as the drink of life (v. 37), recalling the libations that went with the showbread and meal offerings.

The Lampstand comes next. Jesus presents Himself as the life of the world in John 8. In John 9, Jesus heals a blind man. In John 10, Jesus presents Himself as the Good Shepherd. The connection of this to the Lampstand lies in the fact that David was the Good Shepherd of the Old Covenant, and the Bible repeatedly speaks of David as a lamp (2 Samuel 21:17; 1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 2 Chronicles 21:7). There is a conceptual parallel between a lamp shining in a dark place and the voice of the shepherd heard by the sheep. In John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus, explaining that it is a matter of awakening him from darkness and sleep to light and day (vv. 9-11). In John 12, Jesus comments that those who had not believed in him were blind, but that those who did believe would become sons of light (vv. 35-41).

Starting in John 13, we move through these items of furniture a second time. Jesus washes the disciples' feet in 13:1-20. He breaks bread with them in 13:21-30. Then He moves into a discussion of the Holy Spirit, the ultimate archetype of the seven lamps in the Tabernacle (John 14-16). After this, Jesus prays His high priestly prayer at the altar of incense (John 17).

The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus involved a double motion, in terms of the Tabernacle. The sacrifice was made outside the Tabernacle in the courtyard on the altar. Then, on the day of atonement the High Priest took the blood into the Most Holy and presented it before the Throne of God (Leviticus 16:15). Just so, we see the Lamb of God sacrificed outside the gate, and then He presents His Death before the Father's throne (Hebrews 9:7, 23-26). Under the law, when the High Priest came back out from the Most Holy, still alive, it was a sign that God had accepted the sacrifice. The Resurrection of Jesus fulfills that type. Also, when the High Priest offered the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, he put aside his garments of glory and beauty and wore a simple linen garment. Agreeably, when Peter entered the tomb, "he beheld the linen wrappings lying there" (John 20:6), because Jesus had put back on His garments of glory and beauty (Leviticus 16:4, 23-24).

When Mary Magdalene looked into the tomb, "she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying" (John 20:12). Arthur Pink comments,
Who can doubt that the Holy Spirit would have us link up this verse with Exodus 25:17-19 - "And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold... and thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat."
The tomb enclosed by the great stone formed but one more Most Holy Place, all the more so, because here the incarnate Word was placed. Outside this tomb was a garden (John 19:41), a reminder of the garden-sanctuary of the Tabernacle. When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus, she rightly recognized Him as the new Gardener, the new Adam (John 20:15). The Magdalene, restored from her seven demons (Mark 16:9), symbolizes the Church, the new Eve.

John is not finished with his Edenic motifs. As God breathed life into Adam in Genesis 2:7, so Jesus breathes life into His Apostles in John 20:22. As naked Adam hid in the garden, so naked Peter hid in the sea until Jesus restored him (John 21:7). As Adam named the animals, so Peter and the rest of the disciples are told to guard and feed Christ's sheep (21:15-17).

Thus our Lord wrapped Himself in the garment of the old creation, and in His Death and Resurrection created it anew. But what is this new creation like? [source]
For those mildly interested, but not so interested that they want to pay for a hardcopy, the whole book is available for free in PDF form: here.