Monday, December 31, 2012

Hays and the Totality?

Been reading Richard Hays lately, coming off the the heels of Jesus and the Victory of God.


During the Gospel reading this past Sunday, John i, 1-17, I couldn't help but think how, given historical context, the discourse on light and darkness seems so obviously in reference to Jews and Gentiles. The only problem I had, then, was my next thought was how regularly I found myself reading the New Testament as predominantly a commentary on the relationship between Jew and Gentile - so regularly, in fact, that it's a little bit suspicious. Note this line (Hays) from today:
In Romans, Paul cites Scripture not as a repository of miscellaneous wisdom on various topics but as an insistent witness of one great truth: God's righteousness, which has now embraced Gentiles among the people of God, includes the promise of God's unbroken faithfulness to Israel. Virtually every text Paul cites or alludes to is made to circle around this one theme.
Is it not possible that the project of Hays, Wright, Inc are possibly guilty of flattening out biblical theology?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jesus, Moral Philosopher

In lieu of actually blogging, here's a crosspost from FB stripped of context:
Late to the party, as usual, but I just want to chime in that, with your dad, I could affirm some, though not all, of the above. You spoke to many different issues that would be worth pursuing, but one came to the fore as I read your note: 'the true message of compassion, empathy, forgiveness and love for all humanity were the true underpinnings of the Christian faith.'

While I have no prior experience of the man, Bill Maher, I saw a clip where he claimed to love "Jesus the moral philosopher." This, to me, is asinine. If we are to in any way revere "Jesus the moral philosopher," I for one, renounce my faith immediately. Socrates was a moral philosopher. Jesus was a *Messiah*, an anointed Jewish King, the only true one, resurrected by the Father, and ascended to heaven. But he is no ethical mincer of words. The centerpiece of his vocation was the proclamation *of* his vocation - the Gospel he brought was that He *is* the Gospel. Any ethical claims he makes are not the patient reflections on the thorniness of moral quandaries - such as one might find in John Stuart Mill, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, or Peter Singer - rather, the ethics he declares is the offspring of his more fundamental ministry of declaring who he was and what follows from the mere fact of *himself*.

That being the case, I think it would be misguided to assume that Christianity (even remotely distinctly) brings a message of "compassion, empathy, forgiveness and love for all humanity." Rather, the true message of Christianity is a sword. Reject it or embrace it, but call it what it is. Anybody who has tried to dress it up differently is either deluded themselves, or simply pandering to you.

As for God, showing his face in nature, I can't encourage you enough to read the book I gave you, Miracles, by Lewis. You will be impressed by the depth of both the similarity and dissimilarity of Lewis' understanding and your own. I'll give you the cliff notes. Everything hinges on the joining of Nature and Supernature in one person - the Incarnation. In Christ, the hospitality of God is revealed through his condescension to what is *not* God, that it may become *like* God.

On that note, good night.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Utils and Hedons

Earlier this month, a friend and I attended a local "Philosophy Slam," this one about vegetarianism. The question was plain: Should we eat animals? The argument was simple: Taking for granted that we should minimize suffering wherever we can, oughtn't we start doing this by not killing animals? Especially when ample consumable alternatives are available?

My answer: I reject the premise, "we should minimize suffering whenever we can," not because we shouldn't, but because we shouldn't talk like that. Speaking in universal ethical maxims are the bread and butter of utilitarianism, and other sorts of fascism.

Assuming that the question of animal ethics is simply a matter of "minimizing suffering whenever we can" and its converse "maximizing pleasure wherever we can" leads to the worst kinds of cruelty. Bypassing real problems such as the separation of people from the means of food production (the hunter may be the most ethical meat-eater), it reduces cows, chickens, and pigs, to an economy of hedons and utils.

The economy of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain is the very economy that yields real animal cruelty because it strips animals of their ordered dignity, and replaces it with commodity. The utilitarianism to which the speaker appealed in order to save the animals, is the very thing which enables their violence. We shouldn't talk like that.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

6 + 2

6 is the number of man, for Adam was made on the sixth day as the capstone of creation - the capstone, but not the consummation. It was not until God made Eve, it was not until there was not 1, but 2, that man was consummate.

6 + 1 would bring us only to the Sabbath, the 7th day, Holy Saturday, the day of rest/death.

But 6 + 2 brings us to the Future, the 8th day, Easter, the day of the resurrection and eternal life.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Christ the Corn-King

This is for friends. I've been meaning to type this up for a while now since I've referenced this chapter multiple times. It's taken from C.S. Lewis' Miracles and offers (what I think is) a helpful answer to questions I've been asked about the uniqueness (or lack thereof) of Jesus. I kept the British spellings in tact, and preserved all original italics. The emboldening has been added for my own emphasis. Still, as a transcript of seven or eight pages, it is possible that there are some typos. I'll attempt to weed them out as I see them.
In this descent and reascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life reascends. It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to perfect embryo, to the living conscious baby, and finally to the adult. So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a reascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth - go down to go up - it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.

The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre. The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God. All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key. I am not now referring simply to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ. The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Rebirth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and reascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.

From this point of view the Christian doctrine makes itself so quickly at home amid the deepest apprehensions of reality which we have from other sources, that doubt may spring up in a new direction. Is it not fitting in too well? So well that it must have come into men's minds from seeing this pattern elsewhere, particularly in the annual death and resurrection of the corn? For there have, of course, been many religions in which that annual drama (so important for the life of the tribe) was almost admittedly the central theme, and the deity - Adonis, Osiris, or another - almost undisguisedly a personification of the corn, a 'corn-king' who died and rose again each year. Is not Christ simply another corn-king?

Now this brings us to the oddest thing about Christianity. In a sense the view which I have just described is actually true. From a certain point of view Christ is 'the same sort of thing' as Adonis and Osiris (always, of course, waiving the fact that they lived nobody knows where or when, while He was executed by a Roman magistrate we know in a year that can be roughly dated). And that is just the puzzle. If Christianity is a religion of that kind why is the analogy of the seed falling into the ground so seldom mentioned (twice only if I mistake not) in the New Testament? Corn-religions are popular and respectable: if that is what the first Christian teachers were putting across, what motive could they have for concealing the fact? The impression they make is that of men who don't know how close they are to the corn-religions: men who simply overlook the rich sources of relevant imagery and association which they must have been on the verge of tapping at every moment. If you say they suppressed it because they were Jews, that only raises the puzzle in a new form. Why should the only religion of a 'dying God' which has actually survived and risen to unexemplified spiritual heights occur precisely among those people to whom, and to whom almost alone, the whole circle of ideas that belong to the 'dying God' was foreign? I myself, who first seriously read the New Testament when I was, imaginatively and poetically, all agog for the Death and Rebirth pattern and anxious to meet a corn-king, was chilled and puzzled by the almost total absence of such ideas in the Christian documents. One moment particularly stood out. A 'dying God' - the only dying God who might possibly be historical - holds bread, that is corn, in His hand and says, 'This is my body'. Surely here, even if nowhere else - or surely if not here, at least in the earliest comments on this passage and through all later devotional usage in ever swelling volume - the truth must come out; the connection between this and the annual drama of the crops must be made. But it is not. It is there for me. There is no sign that it was there for the disciples or (humanly speaking) for Christ himself. It is almost as if He didn't realise what He had said.

The records, in fact, show us a Person who enacts the part of the Dying God, but whose thoughts and words remain quite outside the circle of religious ideas to which the Dying God belongs. The very thing which Nature-religions are all about seems to have really happened once; but it happened in a circle where no trace of Nature-religion was present. It is as if you met the sea-serpent and found that it disbelieved in sea-serpents: as if history recorded a man who had done all the things attributed to Sir Lancelot but who had himself never apparently heard of chivalry.

There is, however, one hypothesis which, if accepted, makes everything easy and coherent. The Christians are not claiming that simply 'God' was incarnate in Jesus. They are claiming that the one true God is He whom the Jews worshipped as Jahweh, and that it is He who has descended. Now the double character of Jahweh is this. On the one hand He is the God of Nature, her glad Creator. It is He who sends rain into the furrows till the valleys stand so thick with corn that they laugh and sing. The trees of the wood rejoice before Him and His voice causes the wild deer to bring forth their young. He is the God of wheat and wine and oil. In that respect He is constantly doing all the things that Nature-Gods do: He is Bacchus, Venus, Ceres all rolled into one. There is no trace in Judaism of the idea found in some pessimistic and Pantheistic religions that Nature is some kind of illusion or disaster, that finite existence is in itself an evil and that the cure lies in the relapse of all things into God. Compared with such anti-natural conceptions Jahweh might almost be mistaken for a Nature-God.

On the other hand, Jahweh is clearly not a Nature-God. He does not die and come to life each year as a true Corn-king should. He may give wine and fertility, but must not be worshipped with Bacchanalian or aphrodisiac rites. He is not the soul of Nature or any part of Nature. He inhabits eternity: He dwells in the high and holy place: heaven is His throne, not His vehicle, earth is His footstool, not His vesture. One day He will dismantle both and make a new heaven and earth. He is not to be identified even with the 'divine spark' in man. He is 'God and not man': His thoughts are not our thoughts: all our righteousness is filthy rags. His appearance to Ezekiel is attended with imagery that does not borrow from Nature, but (it is a mystery too seldom noticed) from those machines which men were to make centuries after Ezekiel's death. The prophet saw something suspiciously like a dynamo.

Jahweh is neither the soul of Nature nor her enemy. She is neither His body nor a declension and falling away from Him. She is His creature. He is not a nature-God, but the God of Nature - her inventor, maker, owner, and controller. To everyone who reads this book the conception has been familiar from childhood; we therefore easily think it is the most ordinary conception in the world. 'If people are going to believe in a God at all,' we ask, 'what other kind would they believe in?' But the answer of history is, 'Almost any other kind'. We mistake our privileges for our instincts: just as one meets ladies who believe their own refined manners to be natural to them. They don't remember being taught.

Now if there is such a God and if He descends to rise again, then we can understand why Christ is at once so like the Corn-King and so silent about him. He is like the Corn-King because the Corn-King is a portrait of Him. The similarity is not in the least unreal or accidental. For the Corn-King is derived (through human imagination) from the facts of Nature, and the facts of Nature from her Creator; the Death and Rebirth pattern is in her because it was first in Him. On the other hand, elements of Nature-religion are strikingly absent from the teaching of Jesus and from the Judaic preparation which led up to it precisely because in them Nature's Original is manifesting Itself. In them you have from the very outset got in behind Nature-religion and behind Nature herself. Where the real God is present the shadows of that God do not appear; that which the shadows resembled does. The Hebrews throughout their history were being constantly headed off from the worship of Nature-gods; not because the Nature-gods were in all respects unlike the God of Nature but because, at best, they were merely like, and it was the destiny of that nation to be turned away from likenesses to the thing itself. (pp. 179-186)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do

This is a provocative book. The publishers must have known what they were doing because, from the cover, you would assume that this was a vanilla, marginally-Christian self-help book - when in fact it is written as an attack on the entire genre and culture from which such books come. The target in Phillip Cary's sight is what he describes as the "new evangelical theology" - a comprehensive phenomenon of consumer-driven piety that strikes at the vitals of Christian religion. The "new evangelical theology" has us, at every turn, turn our hearts inward, while the Gospel that Cary identifies with would have us do precisely the opposite. After all, our hearts are dark and manipulative - why would we look there and hope to find God?

This is a popular book. This is not a book written for review in academic journals. It is through and through pastoral both in scope and style (though ironically written by a philosophy professor). So, those who are looking for the titillation of robustly scholastic vocabulary, or the rollicking back-and-forth jab between theologians of various schools and traditions, or pages covered in footnotes - people like that - people with whom I relate a good bit - will be disappointed. This is a more relaxed, accessible read.

The book is broken into 10 chapters and reads like a very accessible version of D.G. Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism. Released nearly 2 years ago, it has already been amply reviewed. What I want to offer here is the text in miniature, a teaser of sorts, which includes one paragraph from each chapter that I found exemplifies the chapter as a whole, along with some minor commentary for context.

The book is written with the sort of moral courage and backbone that its opposition often lacks - and because of that, it is bound to raise objections at some, if not many points. Even though I would recommend the text without reservation, it's worth mentioning that there are some places where I might have some quibbles. But those are few and far between.

Why You Don't Have to Hear God's Voice in Your Heart

A very different kind of spirituality comes to us from the revelation of God in holy Scripture. It frees us to develop our own thoughts and feelings, since we don't have to look for God within our hearts - which is where we are most vulnerable to self-deception and technologies of manipulation. Instead, we can find him in his faithful word. So once again we have doubly good news, about self-knowledge and the knowledge of God. The good news about self-knowledge is that it's okay for your feelings and thoughts to be our own, not the voice of God. For the good news about God is that he makes himself known the way a real person does, by speaking to us from outside our hearts. And precisely that external speaking, when we take it in by faith, gives a new shape to our hearts, conforming us to the image of his Son. That's how our thoughts and feelings and inner voices become a new thing, not merely a product of consumer culture. (p. 14)
The first chapter of the book lays down the premise for which every other chapter is merely an explication: there is not even a hint in Scripture that anyone, anywhere should look inside their hearts to find God AND anyone that would believe that they should look inside their hearts to find God, bring a horrible burden upon themselves: they come to look toward their faith rather than to Christ, the object of our faith; they lose any concept of themselves as responsible moral agents; and their decision-making is often skewed in the direction of evil as it is molded by the culture in which they live rather than the Spirit. But Cary writes to bring good news: you don't have to believe that.

Why You Don't Have to Believe Your Intuitions Are the Holy Spirit

According to this biblical account of the work of the Spirit in our hearts, we won't get a sanctified heart by listening for the Spirit, but by listening to God's word. Knowing the Spirit therefore does not depend on recognizing some special feeling or intuition as the presence of the Spirit. It means knowing Christ through his word, the gospel - a knowledge which is the fruit of the Spirit working in us. And the result, indeed, is that our feelings and intuitions are different. They are still human feelings and intuitions, but they are the feelings and intuitions of a sanctified heart. That is where the work of the Spirit in our hearts is headed. (p. 32)
Human intuition, inklings, hunches, feelings, nudges are wholly helpful, meaningful sources of wisdom. They are the result of a well-trained mind - but they are not to be confused with the voice of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks to us through the audible, external ministry of the Preached Word. ("Faith comes by hearing...") Through ritual reception of biblical exhortation, the Spirit works and reshapes our hearts, our intuitions. Through time, our intuitions can become described as "sanctified," that is "made holy" - which is to say, through time, our own intuitions and discernment has been so shaped by the ministry of the Gospel that it can be said to have been shaped by the Holy Spirit. Any student of the opening chapters of Genesis can tell you that the Holy Spirit is not one to circumvent natural processes - as if to be "supernatural" meant simply "unnatural" or "not natural" - rather the Spirit works with, on, and through creation for the sake of creation (if Genesis 1 is to be trusted). Therefore, it should not surprise us that listening to the Spirit, for Christians, doesn't have to mean something mystically interior ("spiritual"). Rather, we should rest assured that the Spirit sent from Christ works not to replace our feelings and intuitions, but with, on, and through them for their sake.

Why You Don't Have to "Let God Take Control"

I don't think there's any way this makes sense, and I can't tell you how glad I am that I was never forced to believe any of this stuff myself. It looks to me like an awful psychological game, one that really twists you up inside. The only way you can play the game well is to get really good at fooling yourself, while not noticing that's what you're really doing. You have to work very, very hard to convince yourself that you've succeeded in getting God to do everything by "letting" him. An essential part of the trick is to make sure you don't realize how hard you're working to pull it off - because if you're working at it, then you're still just trying to do it in your own strength. (p. 51)
Here, Cary takes issue with the theology underwriting the expression "Let go and let God," an idea that Christian faithfulness consists of only acting with a heart that is purified of any will of our own, as that will may interfere with the will of God. Cary contrasts this theology with the Parable of the Talents (Matthew xxv, 14-30), a parable that compares Christian obedience to the work of a steward. In the parable, the steward who refuses to work because he fears frustrating the work of his master, is the disobedient servant who reaps destruction for dishonoring his master. Letting God "take control" is precisely the opposite of obedience. It is the steward saying to the master, "No, you do it. I don't want to mess this up." Rather, the Christian honors God by taking the talents given him, and shrewdly using them to reap blessings for the Kingdom of God.

Why You Don't Have to "Find God's Will for Your Life"

"I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11).
Those are wonderful words of assurance, and we are right to see that they apply also to us today. But let us pay attention as well to what they do not say: they do not say exactly what God's plans are, nor do they tell us that we are supposed to find out. God knows his plans, and that is enough. He assures us that his thoughts are for our good, and we can trust that. We don't have to find out the details. That is far beyond our ability and he never tells us to try it. (p. 60)
Numerous authors have written about the deeply vexing false doctrine of "God's perfect will for your life." For those unfamiliar, the doctrine teaches that, in addition to God's sovereign will and moral will, there is a third will, the perfect will. The perfect will is the special individual will that's custom fit to every decision in your life; it is God's unique, handcrafted goal for your own personal greatness and glory, and you must find it, not miss it, or you are missing God's best - and so it goes. It's deeply private and only attainable if you "listen to the Holy Spirit" - and it's a doctrine only fathomable in the most narcissistic of civilizations. Not only does this novel doctrine cripple the self-aware and the honest, but it baptizes every questionable decision made by the deluded so that their deepest desires and inclinations are unquestionably Divine.

Why You Don't Have to Be Sure You Have the Right Motivations

Repentance is the healthiest way for a sinful and deceitful heart to focus attention on itself. But the rest of our moral growth comes mainly by looking away from ourselves, which is what loving hearts naturally do. This should not be confused with the attempt to be "unselfish," as if it were a way of denying our own desires and needs. On the contrary, it is the only real way to fulfill our desire for happiness, joy, and delight. For we delight in the people we love, which means the idea that love is all about being unselfish fundamentally makes no sense. (p. 90)
Here, Cary shows that the Christian view of the good does not exclude self-interest or delight. Rather, the Christian seeks the good because it is delightful. The question "What can I do without impure motives?" is a vexing question, vexing because the answer is "Probably nothing." We should take for granted that all our desires contain a mixture of good and bad, confess it, receive our forgiveness, and then look out toward the more important question of "What is right?" We do not do the right because we know we are right, but because we love the good.

Why You Don't Have to Worry about Splitting Head from Heart

So here's the odd thing. It seems obvious to me that thinking about your feelings is a way of bringing thoughts and feelings together. And yet it's precisely when you're thinking about your feelings that people really start worrying that you're splitting your head from your heart. It looks to me that what they're actually afraid of is that the thinking itself is what will split your head from your heart. They seem to have the notion that when there's too much thinking going on in your head, it's somehow a threat to the feelings in your heart. If that's what they're worried about, then what the warning about splitting head from heart really means is: don't think too much. It's not really about bringing head and heart together, but more like trying to protect your heart from your head - by cutting off your head. (p. 99)
Much of what Cary writes causes us to carefully examine what exactly we are thinking and feeling and saying when we "listen for the Holy Spirit" or "let God take control" or "try to find God's will for your life." Cary explains that this very process of self-reflection, the process of thinking rationally about Christian faith and practice is often met with a criticism: this process is "splitting head from heart." Cary turns this criticism on its head. The act of thinking about feelings is intended to bring head and heart together. To criticize this as splitting our emotions from our thoughts is, in truth, a covert way of saying "don't think too much."

Why You Don't Have to Keep Getting Transformed All the Time.

The new evangelical theology is a form of consumerist spirituality, which is why it joins in the game of making you feel guilty for not being transformed often enough. Like self-help books and celebrity magazines, it offers transformations that are pretty shallow - a string of "life-changing experiences," each of which lasts only until the next life-changing experience comes along. But of course convincing you that you always need the next life-changing experience is the real point. To be the same old self, untransformed, would mean to want the same old thing, and consumerism can't stand for that. (p. 120)
Cary chalks up the new evangelical theology to the consumerist culture in which we live. This confused spirituality reduces every call and act of the Christian life to a call to "experience God." Emotional intensity becomes the measure of every act of the Church and those things which do not provide the individual with such emotional intensity ("the experience of God") are demeaned. Rather than written prayers, for example, ex tempore, spontaneous prayers become preferable because they are "from the heart." Moving music is more fundamental than ritual worship since ritual seems bereft of transformative value. Most contemporary worship movements have more to do with capitalism than biblical principles.

Why You Don't Always Have to Experience Joy

Meanwhile, we must wait in hope. And in our waiting we have no authority to speak like Job's friends, blaming the afflicted for complaining too much, trying to make them pay the price for our worldview - as if it were their job to make our faith easier by talking as if their suffering isn't that bad, really. We must hope indeed that all is well, even with the afflicted, even now. But hope that is seen is not hope (Rom. 8:24), which means we cannot see how all is well - not yet. In the company of the afflicted we are in no position to rejoice now, but must weep with those who weep. We have absolutely no authority to torment them by demanding that on top of their suffering they must try to rejoice and experience deep inner joy. (p. 153)
In line with the consumerist call to entice oneself is the utter equivocation of "joy" with the "Christian experience." But as proper as the joy in Christ's resurrection is to the life of the Christian, so is the call to "fill up what is lacking in Christ's suffering." This is to be practiced in our own life as well as in our relations with others. We must imitate the silence of God, at times, as he is as much the God of Holy Saturday as he is the God of the Resurrection.

Why "Applying It to Your Life" Is Boring

It makes all the difference where we look. Preaching the gospel gets us looking at Christ and finding ourselves in his story, rather than looking at ourselves and trying to find Christ in our lives. For our Beloved is someone other than us and if we want to see him, we must look away from ourselves, just like the shepherds and the prophets and the disciples. What makes practical sermons boring is that they insist on turning our attention in the wrong direction, as if the way to find our Beloved was to look at ourselves. (p. 162-3)
I once shared an extensive excerpt from a commentary on Leviticus. A well-meaning friend replied with a litany of questions about it, the chief of which was, "How do you apply this to your life?" The gist of my reply was, "I 'apply' it by 'believing' it." That statement reflects a fundamental principle I aspire to in all my engagement with Scripture. Scripture is not primarily about us, though it addresses us. The proper mode of reading it, then, is to hone in on what it says to us about Christ, and then after we have duly meditated on the richness of what is revealed, only then are we to ask, "Where do I come in?"

Why Basing Faith on Experience Leads to a Post-Christian Future

It used to be that you could say liberal Protestants  tried to base faith on experience, but evangelical Protestants tried to base their faith on the word of God. But the difference is not so clear anymore, as the new evangelical theology that I've been describing in this book keeps getting a firmer grip on the life of American evangelical churches. Although the underlying motives are not exactly the same, evangelical Christians do seem eager to make the same mistake as liberal Protestants. Just think how many Christians you know would answer the question, "What is your faith really about?" by saying something like, "It's about experiencing God working in my life." It's an answer that does not require Christ or mention his name. In a church where that is the expected answer, Christ is in the process of disappearing from view, so that the experience they're talking about is becoming less and less Christian with every generation. (p. 182)
Here, Cary repeats D.G. Hart's in thesis in Deconstructing Evangelicalism, suggesting that while evangelicalism is poised vocally against the liberalism of the mainline churches, it stands strangely in line with it as it becomes increasingly overcome with the new evangelical theology. Cary ends with a prophetic warning.


The gospel is good for us in all the ways the new evangelical theology is not. It is good for our psychological health because it is good news, tidings of comfort and joy. And comfort and joy are not trivial things, for as the proverb says, "By sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken" (Prov. 15:13 KJV). This does not mean believers in the gospel will always feel joyful, for there are times when we share Christ's cross deeply enough that affliction and anguish are all we feel. Yet even in those times the gospel is still a joyful word, joyful in itself though it may not be joyful in us. At all times the gospel is objectively joyful, you could say.(p. 195)
The antidote to the new evangelical theology is Christ and his gospel which dwell in our hearts by the outward grace of faith. To the extent that we look away from ourselves and instead toward Christ, to that extent can we find joy - not the giddy joy of a child at an amusement park - but joy with the depth of God because God himself will be the source of our joy.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Good News for Anxious Christians - TofC

Reading through this little guy right now, Phillip Cary's Good News for Anxious Christians: 10 Practical Things You Don't Have to Do. I plan on writing more about it later, but for now, suffice it to say, it's one of those books where you don't have to read it to know what it says. A mere perusal of the Table of Contents is sufficient to get a pretty basic grasp of the books entire argument. So with that said, for those of you who don't actually plan on reading this book, here's the TofC:
  1. Why You Don't Have to Hear God's Voice in Your Heart
    Or, How God Really Speaks Today
  2. Why You Don't Have to Believe Your Intuitions Are the Holy Spirit
    Or, How the Spirit Shapes Our Hearts
  3. Why You Don't Have to "Let God Take Control"
    Or, How Obedience Is for Responsible Adults
  4. Why You Don't Have to "Find God's Will for Your Life"
    Or, How Faith Seeks Wisdom
  5. Why You Don't Have to Be Sure You Have the Right Motivations
    Or, How Love Seeks the Good
  6. Why You Don't Have to Worry about Splitting Head from Heart
    Or, How Thinking Welcomes Feeling
  7. Why You Don't Have to Keep Getting Transformed All the Time
    Or, How Virtues Make a Lasting Change in Us
  8. Why You Don't Always Have to Experience Joy
    Or, How God Vindicates the Afflicted
  9. Why "Applying It to Your Life" Is Boring
    Or, How the Gospel Is Beautiful
  10. Why Basing Faith on Experience Leads to a Post-Christian Future
    Or, How Christian Faith Needs Christian Teaching
The book concludes with "How the Gospel of Christ Is Good for Us." My personal faves are #2, #3, and #9.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sola Scriptura?

On facebook, Seth Hahne asked:
Hey Christian peeps, question here. While I like Sola Scriptura for the normative interpretive cycle, clearly a *strict* Sola Scriptura is inadequate because it doesn't leave room for either the Regula Fide or canon formation (perhaps arrived via Regula Fide).

So here's the question: are there any adequate or necessary alternative models you like?
It was a question that I haven't really thought much about, nor studied very deeply, so I mustered up the best response I could:
Asking "How do we decide what the Bible says?" without first contextualizing the "we" and "the Bible" makes one vulnerable to reading in assumptions and presuppositions that simply may not be shared or which may not even be legitimate.

The "we" seems easy enough to explain. "We" are the Church founded on the teaching and fellowship of the apostles sent by Jesus. "We" are the work of the Spirit sent by the Father to build and knit together the Body of the Son.

Placing "the Bible" seems less straightforward. Obviously, "the Bible," as we know it today - a mass-produced, single-volume, closed text - did not exist in the minds of the apostles (though I believe Ridderbos, to some degree, contradicts this). It's been well-noted before that this deflates the *strict* Sola Scriptura view fairly quickly: after all, the Bible itself does not seem to concieve of the Bible itself, at least as such. Rather, the Bible says that Church is built, not from the Bible itself, but rather through the Spirit. The more appropriate question, then, might be, "What is the economy of the Spirit and the Church, especially with respect to Scripture?"

To use the typology set forth in the link shared by Mr. Nguyen, I would identify my own position in the whereabouts of the "Prima Sciptura" or "Regula Fidei" camps. This, in part, stems from studying Scripture according to itself. Given its wantonness for dressing itself according to creeds and customs which it simultaneously shapes and is shaped by, I find that any attempt to make an *absolute* distinction between Scripture and Tradition to be ultimately indefensible, much in the way that Derrida would say that absence is the limit of presence.

I'm well aware of the problems my own position brings me, and I don't have those well sorted out, but the upshot of this is that it makes the Eucharist the heart of biblical interpretation, because all hermeneutical acts become protologically, eschatologically, and liturgically shot through with the Body of Christ as the grammar, end, and exercise of our worship (though at every point assuming, modeling, and assembling the ecclesiastical orders).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Reading as Privation

One of the paradoxes of study, reading, writing is that as much as it broadens, opens, and exposes oneself to the world and experience of others, it simultaneously alienates that same self. Augustine's comments notwithstanding (cf. Peter Candler), the choice to read a book, is a choice to shift attention from one world to another - which is to say, you don't bring a book to a party, or to a friends house, or to church. The choice to read is the choice to exile oneself, to ignore (at least, temporarily) the needs, wants, and attention of others, and to pay attention instead to someone who is present only as text who exerts no such needs or wants. All reading reflects the impetus of the monastic, at least in part.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gay Marriage - A Thesis

The move toward the legalization of same-sex unions (marriages) is a de-biologization of marriage. As such, it is de-politicisation of marriage. It privatizes sexual activity as such, and reduces civil unions to the realm of the interior, the heart, the individual will, the private, the publicly insignificant. The state that sanctions a civil union without regard to sexual intent is a fascist state, a state that shows no regard for the will of citizenry because it de-corporealizes citizenry.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk."

Transcribed from here (pp. 190-192) for a friend:
The Feast of the Ingathering

Also known as Booths or Tabernacles, this eight-day feast climaxed the festival year for Israel, coming seven months after Passover. It was here that the tithe was presented. All the people were to make shelters of branches and live in them all week (Lev. 23:39-43). It also signified the ingathering of all the nations of the world (Num. 29:12-34 - 70 bulls for the 70 nations in Genesis 10).

Since the Feast of the Ingathering was a celebration of the fullness of life, prosperity, and joy, it was not to be mixed or associated with death. The prohibition on mixing life and death is the theme of Deuteronomy 14 (see Appendix B). Just as Ex 23:19a encapsulates the Feast of the Harvest (tying it with Passover), so v. 19b summarizes the meaning of the Feast of the Ingathering. It is sometimes thought that boiling a kid in milk was a magic ritual used by the Canaanites, and that this is why it is forbidden. The text, however, does not forbid boiling a kid in milk, but in its own mother's milk. The reason is that life and death must not be mixed. That milk which had been a source of life to the kid may not be used in its death. Any other milk might be used, but not its mother's.

This law is thrice stated in the Torah (Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Dt. 14:21). It is obviously quite important, yet its significance eludes us. There are many laws which prohibit the mixing of life and death, yet we wish to know the precise nuance of each. There is no good example of the breaking of this law in Scripture, unless we go to a metaphorical application, seeing the kid as a symbol for a human child.

We notice that the kid is a young goat, a child. The word only occurs 16 times in the Old Testament. In Genesis 27:9. 16. Rebekah put the skins of a kid upon Jacob when she sent him to masquerade as Esau before Isaac. Here the mother helps her child (though Jacob was in his 70s at the time). Genesis 38:17, 20, 23, Judah pledged to send a kid to Tamar as payment for her services as a prostitute. In the providence of God, this was symbolic because Judah had in fact failed to provide Tamar the kid to which she was entitled: Judah's son Shelah. Judah gave his seal and cord, and his staff, as pledges that the kid would be sent, but Tamar departed, and never received the kid. When she was found pregnant, she produced the seal and cord and the staff, as evidence that Judah was the father. The children that she bore became her kids, given her by Judah in exchange for the return of his cord and seal and his staff.* Finally, when Samson visited his wife, he took her a kid, signifying his intentions (Jud. 15:1).

These passages seem to indicate a symbolic connection between the kid and a human child, the son of a mother. (Indeed, Job 1:10 compares the process of embryonic development to the coagulation of milk.) The kid is still nursing, still taking in its mother's milk in some sense, Jacob and Rebekah being an example of this. The mother is the protectress of the child, of the seed. This is the whole point of the theology of Judges 4 and 5, the war of the two mothers, Deborah and the mother of Sisera. Indeed, the passage calls attention to milk. The milk of the righteous woman was a tool used to crush the head of the serpent's seed (Jud. 4:19f; 5:24-27). How awful if the mother uses her own milk to destroy her own seed!

Victor P. Hamilton has written that "in the husbandry of Israel a young male kid was the most expendable of the animals, less valuable than, say, a young lamb. The young males were used for meat; the females kept for breeding. Thus, a kid served admirably for a meat dish: Gen. 27:9, 16; Jud. 6:19; 13:15; 15:1; 1 Sam. 10:3; 16:20. . . ."** Accordingly, one of the most horrible things imaginable is for a mother to boil and eat her own child. This is precisely what happened during the siege of Jerusalem, as Jeremiah describes it in Lamentations 4:10, "The hands of compassionate women boiled their own children; they became food for them because of the destruction of my people." The same thing happened during the siege of Samaria, as recorded in 2 Kings 6:28f. In both passages, the mother is said to boil her child.

We are now in a better position to understand this la, and its placement in passages having to do with offerings to God. The bride offers children to her husband. She bears them, rears them on her milk, and presents them to her lord as her gift to him.*** Similarly, Israel is to present the fruits of her hands, including her children, to her Divine Husband. She is not to consume her children, her offerings, or her tithes, but present them to God. The command not to boil the kid in its own mother's milk is a negative command; the positive injunction it implies is that we are to present our children and the works of our hands to God.

Jerusalem is the mother of the seed (Ps. 87:5; Gal. 4:26ff.). When Jerusalem crucified Jesus Christ, her Seed, she was boiling her kid in her own milk. In Revelation 17, the apostate Jerusalem has been devouring her faithful children: "And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus." Her punishment, under the Law of Equivalence, is to be devoured by the gentile kings who supported her (v. 17).****

* Even in English, the term "kid" is used for children.
** Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), p. 150.
*** Notice that Abraham gave a feast the day Isaac was weaned from his mother's milk, and that it was on this occasion that Isaac, now weaned, had to confront the threat of Ishmael. Sarah, presenting her child to Abraham, took measures to protect him.
**** On this passage in Revelation, see David Chilton's forthcoming Exposition of the Book of Revelation. [source]

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Central Question

Is the gospel therapy or paedeia?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Teaching Math - Pt. 6

I was taught very early on, by a mentor, to take ownership of problems in the classroom. There is nothing more tiresome than hearing teachers complain about unruly students, unhelpful parents, and unsympathetic administrators as if they were the reason that the classroom is a disaster. 99% of the time, if your kids are running amok, disrespecting you, and learning nothing, then it is the fault of no one else but you. My first year was horrible and it was all my fault. Taking this to heart is powerful because that means that if the problem lies in my own professional shortcomings, then the only thing I need to focus on improving is myself. Changing oneself is leagues easier than trying to change the entire state department of education's policies, or the district's bureaucracy, or the parents' lack of support, or the students' lack of resources, knowledge, and discipline. In fact, your job as a teacher is exactly to overcome those things through changing yourself, for the purpose of accomplishing an education for your students.

Practically, this means things like the following:
  • If your students do not respect you, then you may not be carrying yourself in such a way that merits respect.
  • If your students are not doing their homework, then you may have failed to make it clear to them what their motivation is for doing their homework, or maybe you were not clear that they were supposed to do the homework, or you failed to adequately explain the material in class so that they would actually be prepared to do the homework.
  • If your students are not cooperating during a class activity, then maybe you failed to clearly explain to the students what precisely your expectations were for them, or maybe you failed to remind them of those clear expectations.
  • If your students ignore you when you tell them to do something, then maybe it is because you have repeatedly failed to correct them every previous time that they ignored you, thus teaching them that ignoring you was an acceptable response to your commands.
  • If your students are falling asleep during your class, then maybe you are boring, or maybe you just talk too long, or maybe you don't give them enough to do.
These are just a few examples, but each of them are common complaints that are easily fixed by greater self-discipline on behalf of the teacher. With every lesson, activity, module, I am constantly evaluating my own performance, looking for shortfalls and weaknesses on my own end that I will change in the future so that I can do a better job. And there are always shortfalls. Being honest with yourself only helps here. The alternative, placing the blame elsewhere, distracts from the real problems and, thus, prevents them from ever actually being solved.

The obvious objection to what I'm saying here is that it may seem as though I'm ignoring the fact that there are still other problems that the teacher cannot be faulted for. Maybe the students simply are a disrespectful bunch, maybe they don't do their homework because they are lazy, etc. This point is obviously valid, but finally unhelpful. Being a teacher takes for granted all the shortcomings and obstacles outside of the classroom. The task of the teacher is to meet the students where they are (warts and all) and take them beyond that, in some cases with greater ease than in others.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Teaching Math - Pt. 5

One of the most important lessons I have learned is the need to establish and maintain indifference. I have(/aim for) an attitude towards my students which I can only describe as apathy - understood of course, not in the conventional sense of the word, as if I have no care or concern for my students' success. Rather, I am apathetic towards my students somewhat in the sense that God is apathetic toward creation: in no sense am I in anyway under compulsion to feel and act toward them other than out of the freedom of my own will. Thus, all acts and feelings towards them is gracious condescension on my part, untangled by the mess of their mixed and scattered preteen natures and desires. Both my wrath and my blessing stem from this, so that when I am kind, it is total gift, and when I am wrathful towards them, it is out of utter unconcern for things such as "my ego" and wholly borne out of a sheer working out of my willing that "This Will Be."

And they love it. They know that all the burdens of necessity are freely covenanted burdens, burdens such as behavior contracts and the like. They love it. They love it because, at the end of the day, they can rest in the constancy and immutability of my demeanor. As one fellow teacher has described it to me, "they always know what to expect." To what extent parenting can be like this, I do not yet know, dear reader, but this is how I carry myself for my students: out of love for them, I choose not to care about them.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Eye Contact

This passage keeps going through my head:
Of the face offered to my gaze I envisage only what cannot be seen in it - the double void of its pupils, this void that fills the least empty gazes imaginable - because if there is nothing to see there, it is from there that the other takes the initiative to see (me). Gazing on the other as such, my eyes in the black of his own, does not imply encountering another object, but experiencing the other of the object. My gaze, for the first time, sees an invisible gaze that sees it. I do not accede to the other by seeing more, better, or otherwise, but by renouncing mastery over the visible so as to see objects within it, and thus by letting myself be glimpsed by a gaze which sees me without my seeing it - a gaze which, invisibly and beyond my aims (invisablement), silently swallows me up and submerges me, whether I know it or not, whether or not I want it to do so. (p. 82) [source]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Teaching Math - Pt. 4

Having a math degree is pretty worthless for teaching math - in fact, most college degrees are pretty insignificant if you want to teach math. I have two degrees, neither of them in math, both of them in the humanities, and they may be more valuable than a degree in education or a degree in math. Having taught for several years now, I believe that the most important skill is not mastery of any content area, but rather, a teacher's most valuable asset is classroom management.

Classroom management is the both the most important skill and the most difficult skill. Not having it means that even if you have a PhD in mathematics and even if you can somehow teach the content to a college level, you will still be less of a teacher than some guy who barely has mastery of high school algebra, but knows how to keep students quiet and in their seats. To put not to fine of a point on it, classroom management is what it means be a teacher. Nothing else is important - curriculum, assessment, instructional strategies - these are professional skubalon until you learn classroom management.

I write this as someone scarred by my own misfortunes. My first year of teaching was very rough. I had students fighting in my classroom, kids dancing around, and other such nonsense. Multiple days I would go hoarse from screaming, and some days I was honestly holding back tears of frustration. I was sick constantly, both from the intensity of workload and from the stress and fatigue that came from actually trying to teach. Ours is no easy job, not least because of the fact that we are not handed self-motivated, highly mature learners - rather we receive a population of people quite disinterested in the knowledge we would like to share, and our job, part of what makes us uniquely skilled, is that we work to transform what is given to us into what we would like given to us. Being a teacher is not about conveying knowledge of content from one mind to others. Teaching is turning non-learners into learners.

The vessel through which this transformation takes place is the classroom. The captain of that vessel is me, and to ensure that I successfully navigate my students through the year, I set some rules. In the education field we refer to these rules as our "rituals and routines." When I was first told about this idea of creating highly structured sets of expectations for my children, I resented it because my natural mode of engagement with people is not highly structured. I suffered for my foolishness. It is oft stated, but too seldom actually believed and practiced that "children want structure." This has proved to be absolutely true. With each year, I set higher and higher amounts of preset rules and expectations for my students and in doing so they have come to like me more and more each year. The stricter I got the more they enjoyed my class. This, of course, flies in the face of modern notions of "freedom," but it is a fact that cannot be ignored.

Another thing that I've learned about classroom management is that not only are rules to be set and regularly communicated, but that they are to be held to with near blind commitment to the coldest of justice. What I mean is that when you tell a student that you expect them to do something, and they do not meet your expectation, then you must either do one of two things: 1) Correct the student, or 2) No longer expect them to follow your expectation. The key here is consistency. If you do not consistently hold students accountable to your expectations, then you cannot justly expect them to live up to your expectations.

Setting multiple clear expectations and then holding students accountable to those expectations is not something I am naturally good at. This is important. Most people are not natural teachers. 90% of the job is acting, performing, putting on a show. If I care about my students and doing my job well, then I cannot be who I naturally am. I have to change who I am and put on a persona that will help them succeed. Often times, peers will see me in "teacher mode" and they will get a mild chuckle watching me interact with the kids because they know how different that is from my normal personality. In most social contexts, I am the classic quiet, passive, reserved introvert. But starting from 9:15 AM until 4:05 PM, I am somebody else. I become an alpha. It's my job to be this other person and I get better at it every year, with improved results year to year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teaching Math - Pt. 3

When I began teaching, I had this ambition and eagerness to eventually get my kids to some sort of beatific vision through Neo-Platonic mysteries. I thought that a distinctively Christian approach to math might involve pushing children beyond shapes and equations onward into visions of the beauty of God. I mentioned that to one of my colleagues and he simply shrugged that it might be nice to get there, but honestly, it's hard enough just to teach them the essentials of the curriculum. I believe he was right.

This may sound Lutheran, but I more and more believe that my primary goal as a math teacher - as a Christian math teacher - is simply to teach my students mastery of the content that I am assigned to teach. This is my fourth year teaching basically the same curriculum, and I still have plenty of ways that I could teach it even better. When you really understand and appreciate the responsibilities of this job, there is never any shortage of goals and challenges. One simply needs the will and creativity.

This is not to say that math is separate from the unveiling of the face of God in nature - but only that the process of this unveiling is not as mystical and glamorous as meditating on triangles and the Trinity. Posted above my door is Vern Poythress' comment that mathematics is the rhyme of the universe. I believe that and I occasionally struggle to explain that to my students upon their asking. But much as you learn the Christian life through the drudgery of prayer, so do you learn the glistening harmony of the natural order through the monotony of solving linear equations.

Staring me in the face, from the back of the classroom, is Wittgenstein, firmly declaring to me over and over that there is nothing so difficult as not deceiving oneself. This is no less true in the field of secondary public education. We must be very clear about what our job is and do it very well. It is a hard job as much as it is an important job. Much more, it is a job that we can do unto the glory and honor of God, but as the cross reminds us, the shape of glory is not always identical to the honor of men.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Teaching Math - Pt. 2

The point, of course, of the baseline tests (mentioned here) is to assess specific needs of students and then adjust instruction accordingly. If, for example, I see that a high percentage of students score well on questions about the volume of rectangular prisms, then I know that I can compound a lesson on rectangular prisms with triangular prisms and right square pyramids. This year we found that, because students did not have the formula for the volume of triangular prisms given to them, it was missed more than any other shape, even shapes with more complex formulas, such as cylinders. This indicated that many students already had mastery of using formulas, but were less skilled in deducing formulas or understanding the logic that underwrites the formulas. (Understanding the logic of the formulas is part of the state standards. We have traditionally bypassed this, to our students peril, but because we yearly work to teach to the test, we are raising the quality of their education.)

This is what it means to "use data to drive instruction" - a catch phrase as of late that few people seem to be able to adequately speak to, though there is a rapidly increasing amount of pressure to do so throughout the district and the state. There are other ways to do this as well. One creative way to practice this is to use "centers."

The centers model, essentially, involves breaking your class into groups and having each group work on distinct tasks (computer activities, vocabulary, independent practice, and small group instruction) for shorter chunks of time (15-20 minutes), with periodic brief rotations to new tasks. This model is highly engaging for students and takes a lot of different forms. One effective use of this model that we have piloted this year is organizing the groups according to pretest scores. Students are broken into four groups, ranked according to how high or low their baseline scores were. Students in the higher groups would be offered more enriching type activities, while students with lower scores were offered much higher levels of direct teacher support and remediation.

The centers model takes a lot of planning and preparation to execute well. In more advanced classes, the process is fairly stress free, but organizing it for standard level students takes excellent classroom management on behalf of the teacher. It's also not always practical. Occasionally, there will be a subject where students will uniformly, across the board do miserably on the baseline test. (This happened recently with Surface Area, to no surprise.) In these cases, the centers model can be impractical. When all students are functioning at an identical level, "whole group" (traditional) instruction is often preferable. Note, of course, that this is still using student data to drive instruction.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Teaching Math

My entire curriculum through the year is shaped by the state of Florida's standardized test, known as the FCAT. I do this for two reasons: 1) Because this is what my school district expects from me. 2) I was on the board that wrote the curriculum for the district.

My year's curriculum is organized into units called "modules." There are about nine modules for the course I teach, a course known simply as "Math 2." Each module contains a different cluster of state standards to be mastered. Yesterday, my students completed a module known as Module G - Data Analysis and Probability. This covers the state standards MA.7.S.6.1, MA.7.S.6.2, MA.7.P.7.1, and MA.7.P.7.2.

Each module begins with a baseline test and ends with a post-test. The baseline test serves to identify to what level have my students mastered the module's content before I teach it to them. The post-test serves to identify to what level have my students mastered the module's content after I teach it to them. Both results are recorded and compared. The higher of the two grades is given to them, and they are awarded bonus points according to the gains they made between the baseline and post-test.

Other than bonus points for making gains, the only grade they receive for each module is their test grade. Homework and classwork count for zero points in my class. I assign it, most students do it, and it counts for nothing. The only thing that factors into their grade is what percent of the standards can students demonstrate that they have mastered.

This is how I run my class. Because of it, I have some of the top scores in the district on standardized tests. This is because I teach to the test - specifically, the state standardized test. I do this without apology, because my state's standardized test is a very difficult test. If my students are well trained to solve every tested topic at high levels of complexity, then my students are well trained in math.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Evie Mae

And then there were three...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Against Privacy?

"Social Welfare is the not the responsibility of the public sector - rather the poor should be cared for by private organizations such as churches, charities, businesses, families, etc."

Anybody ever realized how sneaky comments like this are? Here, "public" is code for "the State," and "private" is code for "not the State." The upshot of this is the idea that the only truly "public" entity is the State, and that anything that is not "the State" is less so. This seems to be the makings of a subtle tyranny. After all, if the Church is simply another organization of individual interests that have no bearing on the public will, then it really, in any meaningful sense, doesn't matter. If the Church is part of the private sector and not, say, a legitimate participant in public life, on the same footing as the State, then nobody has to listen to her. Too take it all the way: If the President can ignore the Pope on matters of legislation, then Christianity doesn't matter. The Church, it seems, has a responsibility to reject the name "private." Is there any non-blasphemous way to say that Christ is a "private" person? I doubt it. If it is to be that "the government will rest on his shoulders" and kings of the world will be casting crowns before his throne, then oughtn't it be essential that Christians cringe at a statement like "Politics is, in some ways, an expression of a culture's religious beliefs"? It is the responsibility, then, for Christians to reconsider those things that are most essential to "being Christian" and reflect that, in every way, those things are overtly public acts.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Q and A

While writing on my blog has dwindled in the past couple years, I haven't altogether stopped writing. Truth be told, in the past six months, most of the writing that I've done has been on my phone actually, via ridiculously long text messages. If there were an easy way to transcribe all of them to here, I would.

Still, difficult as it may be, I thought that the following message was worth placing on the record, so here it is.

I received the following text message today from a friend of mine from church:
Does baptism forgive sins or does remission come at the moment of faith in christ?
My reply:
Union with Christ through the Spirit is the means of forgiveness, adoption, sanctification. Faith is the instrument of that process. Baptism unto Communion is the shape of that faith.

Faith cannot be reduced to a moment any more than one can be a Christian for a moment. Many people conflate 'faith' with 'intellectual assent.' While the two are related, they are not the same thing. It may be easy to identify a moment that one first 'assented' to the Gospel. It is more challenging to identify a moment of first 'faith' - in oneself or anyone else for that matter.

The best way to answer your question would be, "Remission of sins took place on the cross." In baptism, we are united to Christ's cruciform death. Thus, in baptism we are united with this death which merits remission of sins. It is in this way that it is proper to say that "baptism is the moment of remission of sins."
There ye be.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"We read to know we are not alone."

So then, why do we write?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Nothing Else

What is idolatry but a radical inwardness?

Sunday, January 8, 2012


In the Spirit of St. Francis, we routinely catechize our dog in the doctrine of the Trinity every Sunday when we leave for church by giving him three dog treats.