Category Archives: Uncategorized

Housekeeping

I’ve been meaning to redesign my blog for a couple years now. It’s a cluttery mess. Still not sure when that is going to happen with all the other websites I’m working on right now which definitely take priority.

I have, however, updated my links on the right, er, left to various blogs and other sites. A lot of people have stopped blogging (or so it seems), while others have started or migrated to new blogs.

I will probably, at some time, also have my own blog dedicated to reviewing or least reflecting briefly on the books I read. It doesn’t have to be in-depth blogging or anything, but at least some sort of summary/review/reflection to stuff I read. I’m still slowly working my way backwards on books I finished a year ago.

That’s it for now.

The Prestige of News reports…?

Revealed: how eBay sellers fix auctions, via slashdot.

Wow, this is news? I guess for many, but dang, I used to engage in this bid shilling stuff back in 1998-9 with my college roommate. I actually got suspended for it and have never done it again. Interestingly, I didn’t know what it was called until I got caught doing it and received an e-mail about it from the eBay Po-Po. I think it was only a couple months later that my account was reinstated.

My roommate and I were making chump change off of selling “MINT RARE OOP Move Soundtracks LIMITED EDITION SIGNED” crap.

The Task of a Theologian

My good friend Rusty blogs about an extremely important point that Stanley Hauerwas made at last weekend’s conference. Indeed!

Misbehavors

A friend sent this to me, which is a Tolkein quotation. I don’t know where it is from, but I love it. If anybody happens to know the source, feel free to fill me in.

Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion incircumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children–from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened it back and yawn…Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand–after which [Our] Lord propounded the feeding that was to come).

Is the Reformation Over? A Conversation Among Friends, a report

Wright_lindbeck_burrell_hauerwas_1

Last weekend at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, I attended the conference entitled “Is the Reformation Over? A Conversation Among Friends.”  Inspired by the question asked by a recent book by Mark Noll, Rev. Dr. John Wright set up a series of interviews with George Lindbeck, David Burrell, and Stanley Hauerwas.

Johnwright

My comments are coming a little late onto the scene, but admittedly, I have been swamped with coursework until now.  In the meantime, however, some reports have been blogged:

With that stage already set, I think the most important theme I heard in John’s questions and in the responses to them by Lindbeck, Burrell, and Hauerwas, is one of friendship.  All three of these guys have either attended or taught at Yale, and in one way or another over the years have deeply influenced each other through their work.  And, while Burrell is (I think) the only one who has ever published a whole book out of these three on the topic of friendship, it was clear that this was a theme that pervaded the entirety of the discussions.  Friendship, defined in an Aristotelian sense, has more to do with what friends share as common ends/goals, as opposed to mere agreement on issue X or Y.

George Lindbeck was the first to be interviewed on Friday morning.  He retold some of his profound adventures as a Lutheran observer at the Second Vatican council in the early 1960’s.  He told  some wonderful stories about the friendships he developed with the Catholics there and the other Lutheran observers.  The story that stands out for me is one where Lindbeck and his wife were over at a priest’s house for dinner during the time of the council, and afterwards, the priest offered Lindbeck’s wife a cigar, and she took it!  They had an after-dinner smoke, and this was just one of many gestures of friendship that continued over the years.

Lindbeck

Before moving on to Burrell’s interview, I did want to touch on Lindbeck’s response to the reaction to his most popular book, The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age.  The image he associated with its reception was on-the-mark: Nature of Doctrine has been much more of a “rorschach blot” than anything else, as seen by the myriad interpretations that people have read into the book, most of them not having much to do with Lindbeck’s original intentions.  He expected ecumenists who were well-read in theology to read it!  Also, of importance was that whenever he waxed [Clifford] Geertzian, he was always thinking of Thomistic/Aristotelian habitus.  Furthermore, he affirmed that Chrisitan theology should always be built upon Biblical foundations, but he does admit that he contradicts himself a bit in his own book.  Lastly, he also confirmed that what he is doing in The Nature of Doctrine and in much of his other life’s work, especially as found in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, is in the form of Thomas Aquinas’ quaestionis.

These last points were very helpful for me (and hopefully others as well), especially because I had just finished a paper last semester attempting to tease out these ideas with the main idea being that The Nature of Doctrine cannnot be rightly interpreted apart from the ecumenical telos in Christ, which has been the main goal of the work of Lindbeck both proceeding that book as well as after.

George Lindbeck left us with the following: “One mistrusts entirely predictions of what the future will be.” It was meant both as a warning to not trust our own predictions and as a hopeful reminder to trust in the providence of the Triune God.

David Burrell immediately established himself not only as a guy who loves to tell stories, but also as one who tells them well.  The beginnings of the discussion around Burrell began with some early autobiographical information, and quickly worked its way toward his relationship with his teacher Bernard Lonergan.  Lonergan taught him the distinction between those who need certitude, and those who search for understanding.  We are a people who tend to always search for something graspable and certain, yet the great theologians are actually those who are not expounding upon the right answers, but are those who ask the great questions.  Through this search for understanding, Burrell continued the friendship theme by further describing theology as usually done between a master and apprentice.  Maybe George Lucas got some things right in the end, after all.

Burrell

An important point that Burrell raised was the difference between a division and a distinction.  For thinking theologically, this is paramount.  For instance, the Trinity is one God having one essence but three distinct persons; also the distinction between nature and grace is an important one: if grace is a gift, then what is nature? — a given?  No, both are gifts, and one completes the other and brings it to its fullness in the Triune God.

The last bit I want to touch upon in regard to Burrell and friendship is his inter-faith work on Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides, and Avicenna (Ibn Sena).  Burrell has shown in some of his books that Thomas Aquinas, in addition to Aristotle, is quite indebted to both Maimonides and Avicenna — indeed, Burrell said that on five key issues, Thomas is indebted to Maimonides.

Burrell’s final words were to remind us that the central task of theology is that faith in Jesus is central as well as to be Christian community as the body of Christ that is always welcoming and understanding as opposed to fearful of others (a kind of certitude).

Stanley Hauerwas was as interesting, hilarious, and profound as ever, and also said things that surprised many.  Somehow, he was able to recall a list of all the books he had ever read at Yale under each professor that assigned them.  In this telling, some of his formation around Thomas Aquinas and Wittgenstein emerged early on. Something that resonated with Burrell’s earlier statements was when Hauerwas said that most people tend to miss the investigative enterprise of Thomas’ work.  Similarly, friends have told me that the thought of Thomas cannot be grasped by getting to a ‘pure Thomas’ but upon a more careful reading, one will find that his thought is much more of a labyrinth and not nearly as systematic as we think it must be.

Hauerwas

Likewise, Hauerwas said that his own work has always intentionally been non-systematic; instead, it has been much more engaged in the task of “theological journalism,” attempting through never-ending re-descriptive articles to show how things really are.  Thus, theology is fundamentally teaching speech in an attempt to not let language “go on holiday.”

“It’s one thing to read Aquinas, it’s another thing to pray with somebody who reads Aquinas,” said Hauerwas.  Later on, he said that friendship and the life of prayer are internally related to each other.  In this vein he pointed to Jean Vanier and the L’Arche communities to teach how how to be as Christians.

Hauerwas’ closing words were to be not afraid, because Jesus is Lord!  He went on to say that another of our primary tasks is to defeat the speech-act of “Jesus is Lord, but that’s just my opinion.”  And perhaps surprisingly to some, Hauerwas told us that we can never read the bible enough, because it teaches us the grammar we need to live the Christian life.

After the three main interviews, there was a panel discussion between John Wright and the three guests.  I didn’t really take any notes at this point, but it was a good conversation as well, which was further followed up by a Q&A session. For now, unless somebody took some better notes, we will just have to wait on the content of this conversation until this conference hopefully gets transcribed and edited into a book, which John Wright plans to do.

I am not entirely sure how I missed this, but I only found out last night over dinner with my wife Tiana and some really good friends of mine that in the month of January, the week of 18-25th is “On Christian Unity Week.”  The 18th is also the day the conference started, which, though perhaps providential, is a humbling reminder that this conversation is not only happening at seminaries in Kansas City, but also across the world.

[In closing, here is my Flickr gallery of the pictures I took of the conference.  Enjoy! Cross-posted to the church and postmodern culture blog]

late night begins

This is a pretty nearly voyeuristic, yet dull and pointless post, but I have another 40 pages to read and a 5 page paper to write before I go to bed tonight, and it is 10pm.

On another note, I must read Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory at some point.

Here we go.

p.s. I send all my real voyeurisms to postsecret (this week is NSFW). Just kidding, I don’t really send any thing in.

When all else fails, Meme

I have been tagged by Jonathan Norman from The Phaith of St. Phransus to add my picks for the ‘Best Theology’ Meme.

This is the criteria:

Name three (or more) theological works from the last 25 years (1981-2006) that you consider important and worthy to be included on a list of the most important works of theology of that last 25 years (in no particular order).

My selections are definitely going to be a bit different and show my tastes. Also, there are some “essentials” that I still haven’t read in the last 25 years, and others, such as, say, George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine has been chosen enough by other people. So, here they are:

  1. Genealogy of Nihilism: Philosophies of Nothing and the Difference of Theology, by Conor Cunningham
    Don’t let the title fool you: the whole book isn’t a genealogy, nor is the whole book about nihilism. I read this toward the end of 2005 around the time I was experiencing a shift in my understanding of life and theology. Not only did this book spurn an extreme interest in philosophical studies, but it also pointed the way for me toward a way of thinking about life and love that has had a profound impact on me ever since. It is a challenging read, but well worth the effort and engagement. (I must admit, it is rather trippy that I now work for Conor and have hung out with him and presented at the same conference as him and a bunch of other people I highly look up to.)

  2. Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth, by David Bentley Hart
    Another challenging read that continued to spurn my interest in philosophy as well as Eastern Orthodox theology. Also, it’s very beautifully written (except for when he’s talking about Levinas), especially when he speaks about the Trinity and creation. Also, his aesthetic critique of Nietzsche and the market is something to be reckoned with. There is definitely some interesting eccentricities to wade through, but most of them are fun (excursus on oino-theology), while others are completely out of left field (critiquing the line dancing of Henry Ford?). A very important book in Christian aesthetics.

  3. Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, by Stanley Hauerwas
    While my first two are indeed “late comers” to the field (2002 & 2004 respectively), this one comes from 1984, and it is probably the Hauerwas book with which I should have started. His account of narrative and practice as a peaceable kingdom of God is wonderful and challenging.

I am tagging Kaz Trypuc, Charlie Pardue, Dale Lature, and Rusty Brian!

Blogging Dearth

I haven’t blogged anything of substance since November. The end of last semester was difficult, but I did really well in both my MA classes. Then, Tiana and I drove about 1,200 miles to our respective homes and back during Christmas, having a good time and just resting. We explored more ‘lo-tech’ avenues like reading, puzzle-putting-together, cross-stitch, and games of Settlers of Cattan (my brother pwned me).

I got a bit of a head-start on reading for one of my three classes this semester, but I still am pretty buried underneath a figurative avalanch of reading and writing right from the get-go. For those interested, I’m taking a class in Wesleyan Theology, a Seminar in Biblical Literature focusing on Ezekiel, and a Philosophy class where we’re reading Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida, taught by Professor Heather Ross.

The main thing I’m excited about is what is coming up this weekend. A bunch of us are heading out to Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO, to attend the Hauerwas, Lindbeck, and Burrell conference that Dr. John Wright is putting together. I’m excited to catch up with my ol’ friends as well as meet new ones for the first time. I’ll most likely have pics and a brief write-up to share when I return.

Pulp Fiction

I’ve got to say, the book of Ezekiel is not the “funnest” book to read when you’re feeling depressed.  Hopefully it gets better toward the end (hurray for building measurements in cubits! that’ll cheer me up ;).  Chapter 16 is gnarly, and I hear that ch. 23 is worse (p.s. why don’t more fundamentalists pay attention to Ezekiel 16:49Open Link in New Window and its surrounding context, by the way?). I’m taking a semester-long class on this book. 

At least my prof plays jazz when people are walking into the classroom.  Give me that Dm11 chord, any day. As Nigel Tufnel from This is Spinal Tap says, D minor “is the saddest of all keys, I find. People weep instantly when they hear it, and I don’t know why.”

The Wonders of You Tube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJzU3NjDikY
Everybody watch this now please kthxbai!

Hah. I showed this after our Bible Study last night and it got a lot of ooh’s, ahh’s, and laughs. It’s brilliant!

There’s a lot of crap on YouTube, but in the last week or so, we’ve found some real gems. Especially the videos of HappySlip. Start from the beginning of her vids and enjoy!

Last, but not least, on New Year’s eve a small group of us got together to hang out, and we watched this short film from 1963 called ‘Dinner for One’. It’s on YouChoob in parts one and two. So. Funny.

I like free things that are also not lame

A few weeks back, when I saw this post over at BoingBoing advertising the delicious Sky Maul magazine, I snatched up a couple copies to give to my friends. Why was the purchase made so quick? Because of this:

This year, only two books have made me laugh until tears ran down my face: John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise, and this parody of the hideous SkyMall catalog, appropriately titled SkyMaul.

Within minutes of seeing this post, a coupld copies would soon arrive and I would give one to the honorable Dave-O as a little pre-Christmas Christmas gift. Tiana, Dave-O, and I, all ended up literally laughing ourselves to tears at various parodied products (i.e. the camel-toe eraser!). But what is this John Hodgman stuff about his ‘areas of my expertise’?

I dunno. Or at least I didn’t. A former co-worker of mine went ballistic on this book a few months back, but maybe the cover design threw me off and I didn’t pay attention. To cut this short, now I can be lazy (and you too), and iTunes is now letting you download the entire audiobook for The Areas of My Expertise for free! (6.9 hours)

~ BoingBoing link
~ Direct link to d/l from iTunes (must have iTunes installed)

Yes, I believe I like free things that are also not lame. Recommended if you like really dry, hawesome humour.

After reading some Wittgenstein, I’ve realized that one of Hodgman’s main devices of wit is really creative tautologies. A tautology is something that is true in every case. For instance: it is either raining or not raining outside. In Wittgensteinian terms, this sentence is non-sense because even though the words themselves are put together well in a legible sentence (cf. The Jabberwocky poem in Through the Looking Glass), they don’t really describe an accurate picture of the current state of affairs; it doesn’t tell you anything about what is really going on outside. It seems like Hodgman employs this kind of thing often, but with awesomeness.

Do this

I’m all for ‘shopping local’, but isn’t there a bit of irony about ordering a shopping bag that says ‘Shop Local’ from an online store based in Canada? Maybe they only intended, of all the people on the internets, that Canadians should be the only ones to log on and buy it? n00bs.

In other news, check out this awesome Christmas tree made out of Mountain Dew cans. I rarely –if ever– drink this delicious, addictive, acidic, delightful, and corosive elixir any more, but it brings back good memories of all sorts of sugar highs and late night video game sessions in which I used to partake. Screw World of Warcraft — I just want to play Warcraft III again.

Still, in other-other news, this video by Lasse Gjertsen is a marvel of editing genius, even if he isn’t an actual musician.

Praise be to God, I am done with all my essay-writing for this semester. We didn’t do any sort of ‘weekly reflection’ papers at all, so after totaling up all my writing of essays including the paper I delivered in Spain, I’ve written a total of 91 essay pages this semester, which is insane. Now to figure out a reading schedule of fun and serious books for my 3-week Christmas break…

Josh Gubser, the Christian vegan pacifist, blogs hardcore

My friend Josh Gubser has been pumping out articles on his blog lately. Earlier he had posted part of his Master’s thesis on atonement theory. I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I’ve heard it’s good stuff.

His wife Alison, seen on the right giving him a smack he probably deserves, is pregnant and due in March. Josh attended PLNU for his B.A. and his M.A. and now him and Alison live in Colorado. I miss them.

Introduction to my paper on language

Here is the first paragraph to my paper on language that I should be finishing up tonight:

Language is for communication. It involves people opening the holes on their face while simultaneously blowing air through their windpipe to vibrate their vocals chords. Sometimes, the tongue is even involved. This is how communication happens: when somebody hears another person’s words (see the aforementioned process) and they cognize those words. Sometimes, people even respond and a dialogue happens. A dialogue is when two people talk (i.e. communicate) to remind each other that they are not the only ones with these funny functions that their bodies make. It’s like, “Oh, so you’re in the club, too?” At this point the other person (more than two people may be involved this this process!) might respond in the affirmative by talking or with a wink or nod to indicate that they don’t feel like using their mouth to say ‘yes’ right then. The reasons for this might vary, including saving energy for later, or they might have coffee stains on their teeth that day, so any body language that does not involve the mouth is readily utilized for the purposes of embarrassment or saving face. In the final analysis, language is used for many things.

I hope I filled this with a lot of attention-getters and real-life applications so that my professors give me an A+ FTW!

Nothing like…

Nothing like listening to Embodyment-when-they-were-death-metal and reading Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason on a Saturday afternoon.

YES

hold up!

“I be

up in the jam

just

workin’ on my fitness”

hahahahah

CRAFTY.

A couple nights ago, I made one of these with Tiana:

I was perusing my Make Magazine Blog and saw a how to make a 3d paper snowflake article over on Wikihow. I quickly memorized the steps and the materials needed and I came up with a way to have a “surprise crafty time” with my wife, Tiana. If you’d like to follow along, this is what I did:

  1. I told Tiana that I found a craft that I thought would be fun to do together. But, it is a surprise. “I’m not going to tell you what it is. It will be revealed to you as we go along.” Not quite as impressive as The Prestige, but it at least elicited some intrigue, especially because she loves crafty things and doing crafty things together, which we don’t normally do because I’ve had to read so much this year.
  2. Once your significant other (this can also be done in family settings!) agrees, announce that we need some items. We will need:
    • some pieces of paper. The directions say ‘6’, but since being ambiguous is a part of this game, just find a large enough stack that might have anywhere from 25-50+.
    • A couple of pairs of scissors, if available. One will do; you will just have to take turns.
    • Some clear, scotch tape.
    • A stapler. For ultimate nerd factor, a red Swingline stapler will be optimal, but any stapler will work!
  3. Now you just start following the directions, but keep in mind not to say that we’re actually making six of anything. Make each individual ‘leaf’ of the snowflake, telling the other to follow along.
  4. When you have each finished one, set them aside and then make one each more, for a total of four. Set them aside and make sure that they are some what arranged in a spatially random way so that they don’t ‘come together’ in any way to resemble the final arrangement.
  5. Now finish the last two for a total of six. Now it’s time to staple the three together and it is at this point that Tiana figured out what was going on, and your family or SO may figure it out here as well. Finish the directions and it will soon become apparent just what is going on.

Something we discovered was that if you take 8.5×11″ sheets of paper and then cut it so that you have 8.5×8.5″ squares, it ends up somewhat cumbersome in the end, so maybe 7×7″ or 6×6″ might be slightly better, although if you don’t have square paper readily available, it’s really easy to make a regular 8.5×11″ piece of paper into a square. If you don’t have a large paper cutter board handy, then this link illustrates pretty nicely how we did it.

I made this post friends-only because we are planning on doing this with some of our family members over the Christmas holiday. Hopefully my family members who have LJ accounts don’t login between now and then!

I also ordered some Cross Stich patterns……..yes, I actually used to do Cross Stich back when I was in early grade school. It learned it from my pastor’s wife when I wasn’t playing Super Mario Brother with her son. What is happening to me. I’m really weird.

My paper on the ‘New Perspective on Paul’

If anybody is interested, here is the paper I wrote on ‘the new perspective on Paul.’ As mentioned, we were asked to take an ‘objective’ as a stance as possible in order to accurately present the arguments of other scholars.

The New Perspective on Paul: A Survey of Scholarship

I actually generally agree with the perspective, and so does my professor, although he has some critiques here and there for various reasons (i.e. he’s not convinced that, according to James http://www.besttramadolonlinestore.com D.G. Dunn, when Paul talks about ‘justification by works’ that he is specifically talking about Jewish works, but ‘works’ in a more general sense, precisely because elsewhere Paul mentions that wisdom cannot save a person, either. Although, I’m not exactly sure which verses he’s referring to? Perhaps 1 Corinthians 2Open Link in New Window? I’m not yet sure…).

I’d love to hear what anybody has to say about the paper I wrote or the ‘new perspective’ stuff in general.

Wittgenstein’s syrup

Theology After WittgensteinThe following is a follow-up to the previous post that pretty much elucidates what was going on with Wittgenstein’s conception of natural theology. It is from Kerr’s postscript in the 1997 edition.

[Wittgenstein] received the impression that God should be ‘thought of as another being like [oneself]’ external to oneself and much more ‘powerful’. Now, thinking of God as ‘outside’, rather than ‘inside’, ‘transcendent’ rather than ‘immanent’, was a typically anti-Modernist emphasis. It was only beginning to be challenged by [Maurice] Blondel’s attack on ‘extrinsicism’ in neo-Scholastic apologetics. In the jargon of the day, [Blondel] wished to remind theologians that, while Christian faith comes as an unanticipatable gift from outisde, it nonetheless resonates with a desire inside the recipient. The natural theology that Wittgenstein rejected, if his memory of it in the 1930’s is to be trusted, belonged to a specific tradition, entrenched at the time but already under attack by other Catholic theologians. Ironically, Wittgenstein’s contempt for the rationalism of neo-Schoalistic apologetics is quite characteristic of Modernism. Indeed, the following remark could not be more ‘Modernist’: ‘The symbolism of Christianity is wonderful beyond words, but when people try to make a philosophical system out of it I find it disgusting’ (RW, p. 86). Again, when he remarked that he could ‘well imagine a religion in which there are no doctrinal propositions’, he could be understood as envisaging something remarkably like the non-dogmatic Christianity which the Modernists wanted.

[…] At all events, [Wittgenstein’s] life-long objection to natural theology was that it purports to exhibit as the conclusion of an argument something that should have been manifest from the outset — if only we could see the world without demanding a certain kind of explanation. In effect, always for Wittgenstein, the fear is that craving for explanation displaces a proper sense of wonderment. His rejection of the strategy of founding faith upon rational demonstration, however, leads him to regard faith as absolutely repellent to reason — ‘If Christianity is the truth then all te philosophy that is written about it is false’ (Culture and Value, p. 83) — a remark which surely takes him far beyond fears of rationalism in Catholic natural theology into endorsement of exactly the disequilibrium of extrinsicism that Blondel and theologians such as Henri de Lubac strove to correct (193-4).

This doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what my paper on language in theology is about, but I think it is rather interesting on a biographical level regarding Wittgenstein’s work.