Kierkegaard and Deception

On the heels of this discussion, I was reminded of this great passage from Kierkegaard’s The Point of View for my Work as an Author:

What, then, does it mean “to deceive”? It means that one does not begin directly with what one wishes to communicate but begins by taking the other’s delusion at face value. Thus one does not begin (to hold to what essentially is the theme of this book) in this way: I am Christian, you are not a Christian–but this way: You are a Christian, I am not Christian. Or one does not begin in this way: It is Christianity that I am proclaiming, and you are living in purely esthetic categories. No, one begins this way: Let us talk about the esthetic. The deception consists in one’s speaking this way precisely in order to arrive at the religious. But according to the assumption the other person is in fact under the delusion that the esthetic is the essentially Christian, since he thinks he is a Christian and yet he is living in esthetic categories.

Even if ever so many pastors will find it indefensible, even if equally as many will be incapable of getting it into their heads—although all of them otherwise, according to their own statements, are accustomed to using the Socratic method—in this respect I calmly stick to Socrates. True, he was not Christian, that I know, although I also definitely remain convinced that he has become one. But he was a dialectician and understood everything in reflection. And the quesiton here is purely dialectical—it is the question of the use of reflection in Christendom. Qualitatively two altogether different magnitudes are involved here, but formally I can very well call Socrates my teacher—whereas I have believed and believe in only one, the Lord Jesus Christ (Søren Kierkegaard, The Point of View, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998], pp. 54-5).

Kierkegaard here is relating this maeutic form of instruction to the way his own writing has unfolded.  It’s also entirely similar to the way that Hamann’s own authorship came into being, although Kierkegaard is leaps and bounds easier to understand.

I think it’s interesting that here Kierkegaard lines up somewhat with the tradition of putting Socrates “within” the Judeo-Christian tradition in a sense.  Justin Martyr says directly that Socrates was a Christian, and Hamann counts Socrates among the “prophets” in his Socratic Memorabilia, yet here Kierkegaard takes a slightly different route and says that Socrates has become a Christian.

Blogging elsewhere

Oddly, not much blogging around these parts lately, but elsewhere, I’ve posted the third and final post of my series on Kierekgaard and Socrates here at Cynthia Nielsen’s Per Caritatem blog (the first two can be found here and here).

Bruce Ellis Benson‘s engagement with Dan Siedell’s God in the Gallery is also now up at the Church and Postmodern Culture blog.

OMGEES, this “No Pets Clause” post on Emails From Crazy People had me laughing very loudly this morning while I was eating my breakfast.  Thanks Jenn, for sending that along.

A Couple of Items

A new book symposium has begun on the Church and Postmodern Culture blog on Daniel A. Siedell’s God in the Gallery: A Christian Embrace of Modern Art.  Two posts are up already, one by Jamie Smith and the other by Matthew Milliner (who blogs at  This Monday an engagement with the third chapter will be from Bruce Ellis Benson. The remainder of the schedule can be found here.

Second, I have begun a series of posts on Kierkegaard and Socrates over on Cynthia Nielsen’s Per Caritatem blog. The first post highlights Socrates’ importance for Kierkegaard at the end of his life, and the second post delves a bit into Kierkegaard’s “Sophistical” situation vis-à-vis the Danish Hegelian Christians of Copenhagen. I should have a third post up soon.

Of excellent book covers

Tiana and I just got back from a two-week trip to the States.  This was our first trip home since we moved to Nottingham in August 2008.  We visited Cincinnati, OH and while in California, San Diego, Merced, and Concord.  While in San Diego I visited the new Theology building on the Point Loma Nazarene University Campus.  I was able to see a good handful of my old MA professors, and before leaving, I managed to catch Dr. Michael Lodahl, my professor for my History of Christian Thought I & II classes.

Glancing around his bookshelf, I noticed that he had several copies of the new edition of his The Story of God: A Narrative Theology book.  The first one came out in 1994 (with the different subtitle “Wesleyan Theology & Biblical Narrative”) and has been assigned in many undergraduate Nazarene theology departments.  However, being a computer science undergrad, I was never assigned the book, nor did I ever get around to reading it in between my forray into theology since then.  What immediately struck me was how incredibly, vastly improved the new cover of the book was.  Here it is below:

And here is a link to a picture of the old one.  As you can see, ridiculously improved.  Not only that, but it’s about one of the coolest book covers I’ve ever seen.

There is a brief but interesting write-up of the process of this cover’s creation over on the Face Out Books website.

[If I ever got into Jules Verne, this would definitely be the set to get (with covers designed by the same place), don’t you think?]

Kierkegaard, Levinas, and an Inwardness Higher Than Itself

One cannot (probably) have too much Kierkegaard on his birthday. This is a great bit from Mary-Jane Rubenstein on Kierkegaard that wraps up all sorts of Kierkegaardian themes as they work themselves out in response to a critique by Levinas:

illustrator © Archipictor Ossi Hiekkala

illustrator © Archipictor Ossi Hiekkala

Emmanuel Levinas claims that the Kierkegaardian subject, as radically inward, is egocentric: “Kierkegaard very powerfully rehabilitated the topics of subjectivity, uniqueness, and individuality.  He objected to the absorption of subjectivity into Hegelian universality, but he replaced it with subjectivity that was shamelessly exhibitionistic.” In order to demonstrate this self-important selfhood, Levinas refers to the Abraham of Fear and Trembling, the most offensive instance of “a subjectivity raising itself above the ethical to the level of the religious.”103 Yet Levinas makes such subjectivity far too easy.  The self thus constituted by repetition does not precede repetition itself, but emerges through it, and is thoroughly infused with the God-relationship. This subjectivity, then, is relational rather than identical and, insofar as the religious subject is constantly in a state of becoming, thanks to what Gillian Rose calls “the eminence of futurity at the intersection of eternity and time,”104 dynamic rather than static.  Repetition, as Deleuze reminds us, is always a gift and, as such, a scandal; the subject cannot merely summon repetition and constitute himself qua subject.  Kierkegaardian subjectivity, I would argue contra Levinas, does not raise itself above the ethical; rather, it is raised above the ethical. Between the two there is an absolute difference. And the subject that emerges through the madness of repetition is not a self-identical individual, alone in inwardness; it is rather a subject related at every turn to the eternal.  The highest form of this selfhood is only selfhood insofar as it exists in the God-relationship—inwardness, in other words, gives rise to something infinitely higher than inwardness (Mary-Jane Rubenstein, “Kierkegaard’s Socrates: A Venture in Evolutionary Theory,” Modern Theology 17, no. 4 (2001), p. 467).

Emphasizing the paradoxical nature of such an inwardness, Rubenstein says, “The very locus of the subject’s self is beyond him. In other words, this subjectivity, which cannot be considered by itself but only repeated, is profoundly ecstatic” (ibid).

103. Emmanuel Levinas, “Existence and Ethics” in Kierkegaard: A Critical Reader, Jonathan Rée and Jane Chamberlain, eds (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998), pp. 26-38; p. 34.
104. Gillian Rose, The Broken Middle: Out of Our Ancient Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), p. 99.

Happy Birthday, Kierkegaard

Today is May 5th, which amongst other holidays, also marks the 196th birthday of Søren Kierkegaard.  In light of this, I thought it would be appropriate to enjoy the following piece from The Moment entitled “The Official/the Personal.”  It is the seventh and final section to part 4 of Kierkegaard’s The Moment series, which was published on July 7, 1855, about six months months before he died.

kierkegaard_circleYou who are reading this, imagine the following incident.  You are visited by someone who, quiet and earnest, yet deeply shaken (without in any way conveying to you any idea of being demented), says to you: “Pray for me, oh, pray for me”—is it not true that this would make an almost terrifying impression on you? Why? Because you yourself personally received the impression of a human personality who in all likelihood must be engaged in the severest struggle with a personal God, since it could occur to him to say to another person: Pray for me, pray for me.

When, however, you read, for example, in a “pastoral letter”: Brothers, include us in your intercessory prayers, just as we unceasingly pray for you night and day and include you in our intercessory prayers—why does this very likely make no impression at all on you? I wonder if it is not because you involuntarily have the suspicion that this is forumula, rigmarole, something official, from a handbook or from a music box. Alas! One cannot say of something official that it has a bad taste. No, what is repugnant about something official is that one thereby or as a consequence of it becomes so exceedingly indifferent because it has no taste, because it, to use an old saying, tastes like sticking one’s tongue out the window and getting spanked for it.

And now when the man whom the state has recently engaged as a shepherd to walk in velvet in order to proclaim that Jesus Christ lived in poverty and taught “Follow me,” when Bishop Martensen presumably has decided to fight with all his might—for what is official—against sects and heresies etc., and, moreover, when there are hundreds in the service of what is official—then it may certainly be made necessary that there be at least one person who concerns himself with what is official. In this regard I dare not expect any appointment from the side of the state, perhaps instead—just between us—from the side of our Lord. Believe me, there is nothing so repugnant to God, no heresy, no sin, nothing so repugnant to him as what is official.  You can easily understand that.  Since God is a personal being, you can surely comprehend how repugnant it is to him that one wants to wipe his mouth with forumulas, wants to wait upon him with official solemnity, official platitutes, etc.  Indeed, just because God in the most eminent sense is personality, sheer personality, for that very reason what is official is infinitely more repugnant to him than it is for a woman to discover that a proposal is made to her according to—a book of formulas (Søren Kierkegaard, The Moment and Late Writings, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998], pp. 172-3).


Just in case anybody is still linking to this website via the URL ‘’, just know that I am letting that domain expire in 5 days. It has been redirecting to this domain for the past 2 or 3 years, but that will soon no longer be the case.

I registered it as a joke about six years ago and it became my website for a few years, but it’s finally time to let that one go. At the very least it will reduce a considerable amount of spam that still goes to that old account.

BBC2 Documentary: “Did Darwin Kill God?”

Hey mate, were not in Ulster anymore!

My superviser Conor Cunningham has written a BBC2 documentary entitled “Did Darwin Kill God?” This will air 31 March 2009 at 7pm (GMT).  The idea of Conor’s documentary is that, from a theological perspective, he hopes to both provide a sharp critique of ultra-Darwinism on the one hand, while also offering a major critique to the Intelligent Design camp on the other.

Conor also has a book on evolution in the INTERVENTIONS series that goes into much more detail.  This is slated to come out this Fall.

UPDATE: There is now a podcast on the University of Nottingham podcast site that is an interview with Conor Cunningham about his forthcoming documentary: “A plague on both houses” (mp3 Friday 13 March 2009; 32.1MB, 34.41mins).

Kierkegaard’s Hardcover-only Writings Soon in Paperback

It was recently pointed out to me by Chris Simpson that the pseudonymous authorship of Kierkegaard only consists of roughly 45% of his total writings, whereas the other 55% were signed/”religious”. With that said, it is exciting to discover that some of the harder-to-find Princeton editions of Kierkegaard’s work consisting of this signed authorship–previously only available in hardcover and therefore cost-prohibitavely expensive–are soon coming out in paperback! These volumes tend to be ignored in the popular scholarship on Kierkegaard, but these works, along with his Journals and Papers, are essential for any Kierkegaard scholar.

Looking at the paperback column below, these are clearly more affordably priced, although some are still a bit pricey. Those ones tend to be the larger volumes over 500-700 pages or so (e.g. The Moment and Later Writings), but there may be exceptions.

Here’s a breakdown with a price comparison chart where the paperback prices listed are the pre-order prices from Amazon. Hopefully it’s not too confusing. That being said, those viewing this post in an RSS reader like Google Reader, Netvibes, etc., may way to view this post on the blog itself because the styles may get munged.

Cover Vol# Title Hardback Price $/£ Paperback List $/£ Paperback Price $/£ Release Date
I Early Polemical Writings 134.95* / £138.46
$35.00 / £19.95 $29.33 / £18.95
July 09 /
June 21, 09†
IX Prefaces/Writing Sampler $56.24 / $40.00‡ / £33.00
$29.95 / £17.95 $29.95 / £17.05 July 09 /
June 4, 09
X Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions $177.50* / £47.50
$24.95 / £14.95 $24.95 / £14.20 July 09 /
June 4, 09
XIII The Corsair Affair, and Articles Related to the Writings $500.00* / £unavail.
$29.95 / £17.95 $29.95 / £17.05 August 09 /
July 5, 09
XIV Two Ages: The Age of Revolution and the Present Age, A Literary Review $67.50 / $45.50 / £32.01
$24.95 / £14.95 $24.95 / £14.20 August 09 /
July 5, 09
XV Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits $199.99* / £unavai. $35.00 / £19.95 $29.33 / £18.95 July 09 /
June 21, 09
XVII Christian Discourses: The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress $57.00 / £64.60 $45.00 / £26.95 $37.42 / £25.60 July 09 /
June 21, 09
XVIII Without Authority $80.00 / $42.38 / £37.95 $35.00 / £19.95 $29.33 / £18.95 July 09 /
June 4, 09
XXII The Point of View $75.96 / $70.00 / £64.60 $35.00 / £19.95 $29.33 / £18.95 July 09 /
June 4, 09
XXIII The Moment and Late Writings $83.84 / £58.90 $60.00 / £35.00 $49.55 / £33.25 July 09 /
June 21, 09
XXIV The Book on Adler $95.00 / $50.00 / £44.88 $40.00 / £23.95 $33.38 / £22.75 August 09 /
July 5, 09
XXV Letters and Documents $125.00 / $85.00 / £99.14 $65.00 / £38.95 $53.59 / £37.00 August 09 /
July 5, 09
XXVI Cumulative Index to Kierkegaard’s Writings $99.50 / $90.00 / £59.95 $65.00 / £38.95 $53.59 / £37.00 July 09 /
June 21, 09

* Items designated with an asterisk mean that Amazon only has them “used and new from [x price]”, indicating that they don’t have any in stock and used bookstores or individual resellers are trying to scalp them at usually batshit crazy insane prices (e.g. The Corsair Affair).

† The Princeton site for Kierkegaard’s works only lists a release date in “Month Year” format whereas Amazon has more specific dates that don’t always align with these dates. The format will be “[Princeton Date] / [Amazon Date]”. We all know that Amazon’s release dates don’t really signify anything real, so take these with a grain of salt.

‡ Hardcover prices with two prices listed are for the “[New Price] / [Used Price]” where the used price is the best price available in the Amazon Marketplace.

This House is Becoming Anxious

The audience at the “Justification by faith (in Christ) alone” debate. About 75 people in attendance.

[Correction: today (25 Feb 2009), I spoke with Professor Richard Bell and he kindly let me know that I mis-paraphrased him below.  He was not speaking of anxiety-riddled Catholics in Germany, but Protestants he met.  My deepest apologies for this mischaracterization/misquote.  I have adjusted the paraphrase below to reflect the actual substance of what Professor Bell said.  Part of Bell’s larger point here is to deeply call into question the notion that this is a “Catholic vs Protestant” issue.  I agree, myself being a Protestant Nazarene, Adrian Pabst of the debate described below being Anglican, and we ourselves are still in opposition to the “justification by faith (in Christ) alone” doctrine. — that being said, I do not think the substance of my comments regarding Kierkegaard actually changes any with this ammendation, especially in light of Alex’s helpful comment which displays the flipside of ‘bad’ anxiety of wondering if we have had ‘enough’ faith.]

Last week I attended a debate here at the University of Nottingham entitled “This house believes that justification is by faith (in Christ) alone.”  The sides of the debate represented two people for it (Richard Bell and Martin Street) and two against it (Aaron Riches and Adrian Pabst).  Clearly, the side for the debate represents the usual ‘protestant’ side of the debate, while the side against the measure represents, loosely, the broader c/Catholic/traditional side.

The debate itself was rather interesting, very exciting, and I learned a lot, but I just want to briefly respond to a remark made by Richard Bell in his closing arguments.  Bell presented a case that went something like the following: 

“I have visited Germany and I encountered German Protestants there who were constantly full of anxiety over whether or not they were ‘doing enough’ to ensure their salvation.  They were constantly frought over this issue, but let me present to you that the doctrine of ‘justification by faith in christ alone’ will assuage their angst, because then they will realize that entry into the kingdom of God does not depend upon works, but faith.”

Something like that.  Essentially, the message assumes that 1) those who reject justification by faith in christ “alone”* therefore must fall into a duality of necessarily believing in “works alone” and 2) “justification by faith in Christ alone” aleviates the existential angst caused by this flight into works.

On point #1, clearly, faith is an integral part of the picture, as well as grace and love, but “faith alone” cannot be just a univocal proposition that we are to assent to as believers as a part of the life of faith.  On the night that Christ was betrayed, Jesus did not give his disciples a doctrine, but gave them his body in a Eucharistic practice of partaking his his broken body and spilt blood.  Yes, faith is an integral part of this practice (and they would have had to have some faith initially to drop their nets and follow Jesus), but there is a fuller, richer picture to what salvation and being ‘justified’ means. (This was the general summary of the “opposing” side to the debate, but there are a few more particulars here and there.)

But more importantly for this post, I want to deeply call into question Bell’s account that propositional assent by faith just makes all our worries go away.  There are a few reasons for this, and I hope to employ some more nuanced Lutherans in the debate.

First, the broad point is that we are never promised the easy, non-anxious life as Christians.  The sermans about ‘assurance’ which tend to get a lot of play are really not about the assurance of our salvation as far as I can tell, especially since where it shows up in the Epistle to the Hebrews seems to talk about a more nuanced kind of assurance in light of being “diligent” in the faith so as not to become sluggish (as one example).

Second, and this was my initial thought in response to Bell at the time: doesn’t Kierkegaard/Johannes de Silentio–a Lutheran–talk about Abraham, who is the father of faith, as an incredibly anxious dude?  In fact, Silentio says, “What is omitted from Abraham’s story is the anxiety […]” (28, Hong translation).  Abraham’s anxiety comes from living at that moment in the paradox where the ethical “ought” is suspended by the religious; the contradiction between the murder and the sacrifice is what makes Abraham what he is–anxious, distressed.

Moreover, it is Philippians 2:12Open Link in New Window which says to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” from whence Silentio derives his title.   The life of faith is inherently distressful.  Interestingly, Silentio begins his discussion saying, “only the one who was in anxiety finds rest” (27).  As my friend Alex reminds me, the truth is that we’ve never “done enough” anyway, and we can just get over that fact and realise that that is our condition so we must be diligent and not sluggish on the way to becoming a Christian.

Finally, Dietrich Bonhoeffer–also a Lutheran–is well known for his writings against “cheap grace” in The Cost of Discipleship.  If I may, the way that Bell assumed that his formulation of the justification doctrine so easily provided a solution for the problem seemed incredibly close to something very much like cheap grace.  Bonhoeffer contrasted the notion of “costly grace” against cheap grace, reminding us that the shape of grace is a cruciform one (Kierkegaard/Anti-Climacus’ emphasis on John 12:32Open Link in New Window when Christ said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” also works well here considering his point is that the “lifting up from the earth” is Jesus Christ being lifted up to the cross).  The way of the cross is costly; the path is a hard one.  Any kind of attempt to make the Christian life “easier” should, I think, be suspect; in Kierkegaard/Anti-Climacus terms, we shouldn’t try and slacken the paradox such that the Christian faith is as easy as putting on one’s socks!

Now, as a very serious disclaimer, I would distance myself with such any notions which aim to let the cart push the horse such that we strive toward anxiety, or that we need to make the Christian life hard, as much as I side with Kierkegaard that the Christian life needs to be ‘made’ difficult again.  This would be ridiculous.  My claim, rather, is that this is just what the Christian life is.  The works of mercy, for instance, are not ‘difficult’, rather, they are a gift, in similar way in which love is both a command and a gift.**

Futher even briefer thoughts:

  • Something not brought up in the debate is the “Pistos Christou” issue, about which Richard Hays wrote a book.  I borrowed it once from my pastor in San Diego, but didn’t get a chance to read it at all.  I’m assuming there’s some relevance of this to the debate.  Faith in Christ, or Faith of Christ, what are the implications, blah blah.
  • I haven’t read any Martin Luther at all beyond his stuff on the bondage of the will (which I thought was rubbish).  So, I haven’t read Luther on this issue at all.  That being said, it seemed like there were some slight caricatures of Luther being made in the debate, but I would still side against the general position which Bell and Street represented.
  • I am becoming more and more convinced that the Joint Declaration means not much beyond the fact that finally the the late 20th century were Lutherans and Catholics able to sit down together and attempt to work something out without beating each other up.  Clearly, the issue is still very much extremely divided and real differences persist.  I will need to re-read the document and also the relevant critical literature of it in its wake at some point, but I’ve spent enough time writing this post today.
  • I’m not sure what ‘work’ simply asserting “faith is a work” does.  I don’t disagree per se with this, it’s just that saying this from the univocal standpoint of “justification by faith (in Christ) alone” seems to still discount the narrative of Scripture which introduces some sort of distinction or larger picture than the “faith vs. works” dichotomy (or its flattening) allows.
  • I’ve never really cared about this issue that much because it seemed really boring.
  • I didn’t give nearly as much blog ink to the issue of grace that Aaron and Adrian raised, but I will leave it here.

* “alone” is in quotes because it was an insertion by Martin Luther.  It appears nowhere in the Greek of Romans 3:22Open Link in New Window (I think that is the verse).  Plus, a place where “alone” does appear is exactly where it refutes the doctrine: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone” (James 2:24Open Link in New Window, emphasis mine).

** On this see Henri de Lubac, The Mystery of the Supernatural, p. 169.

A Healthy Starter

In my earlier post documenting some of the steps I took to make Ethiopian injera bread in the UK, I mentioned that it took close to a full month to get a vigorously healthy starter going.  Also, I used cheaper flour that contained gluten in it for the beginning steps.

Well, just five days ago I tried to start another starter from scratch, this time with gluten free white flour from Dove Farms.  Well, in just four or five days, I found my container nearly overflowing when I arrived home tonight!  Witness:


The starter is overflowing the container slightly.

A closeup of the starter.  You can see the bubbles of the healthy starter.

A closeup of the starter. You can see the bubbles of the healthy starter.

A day and a half ago, the container was only half full, but on it’s own, the active yeast cultures caused it to rise all on it’s own. I’m not sure if it was the gluten free flour, the slightly warmer temperatures we’ve been having this past week, or some combination thereof, but I’m very happy with this.  Also, I’ve read multiple places that once you have done some baking (although you don’t technically bake the injera) with yeast-gathering processes, it causes more yeast to be in the air, so that may have been it as well.

Remember, if you try this at home, be sure to not close the lid all the way, or else the starter might explode.

A LOST theory in the wake of “This Place is Death”

In the wake of the most recent episode of LOST entitled “This Place is Death” (Season 5, episode 5), an idea occurred to me while listening to the recap of the show on the most recent Jay & Jack LOST Podcast.  Because all of what follows assumes that the reader has seen all the episodes up to this point and would thus contain SPOILERS for those who have not caught up, I will place the bulk of the post below the fold.

Get the whole story »

My first home-made Ethiopian meal

After living in Nottingham for a few months, I started missing Ethiopian food.  Tiana and I lived within walking distance to a fantastic Ethiopian restaurant called the Red Sea in City Heights.  I did some looking around Nottingham and, as far as I can tell, there are no Ethiopian restaurants here (although, I’ve heard there are some in London).  So, I decided to see if I could make it myself!

Ethiopian meals are centred around various stews served over injera bread.  The hardest part of this process was definitely the injera (see pictures below), as it involves a long process of waiting for a flour mixture to ferment.  Now, it’s possible to buy sourdough starters, but I didn’t really see any of these in the stores I went into, so I decided to just do it myself.  In comparison, the stews themselves took a lot of preparation, but as far as actual skill and patience required, they were, what my adviser would call “wee buns.”

I did a lot of internet research and ended up following the following process for making the injera bread:

  1. Bought teff flour online from Tobia Teff.  Again, I scoured every likely place in Nottingham for teff flour and could not find any.  I think most of the African markets here may be Kenyan?
  2. Followed Breadtopia’s video tutorial on how to make a sourdough starter from scratch using the ‘pineapple juice method’.  This was the longest part of the process.  It would have probably taken half the time if it wasn’t so cold in Nottingham at the moment.  One commenter from Australia said that, due to living near bread factories creating a lot of yeast in the air and the very warm climate, his starter became active within a day!  I started this in late December 2008 and it wasn’t until late January when I finally got a very active culture of teff flour starter.  I began by following the example using regular flour first, and then about five days later I began converting it to a teff flour starter. [By the way, from here on out, I am going to make another starter (and switch to that one only) using gluten-free flours.  I was cheap and used gluten-laden self-rising flour for the self-rising flour step documented in the next step.  One of our guests on the night we served it was alergic to gluten.]
  3. For the actual making of the injera bread, I followed Heather’s Burakaeyae Step-by-step Injera Instructions.  Accompanying her very detailed blog post are youtube videos for each step, and after a few searches on youtube, one will see that she has, hands-down, the best instructional material for how to make injera for every step along the way (except the sourdough starter step which she assumes you have already done, see #2 above, although she has her own blog post on how to do this, but it would take even longer). Heather broke the creation down into 3 steps, each done about 8 hours apart.  Because it’s a bit chilly in Nottingham at the moment, though, the final 8-hour interval actually took two days for the injera starter/batter to become active (and actually, another day would have improved the sourness and ain [air bubble] count even more). Because super large frying pans do not really exist in any practical manner, and because they do not seem to sell this product here in the UK, I had to make injera into smaller-than-normal pieces.  Traditional pieces of injera are rather large and a single piece will fill a platter, but I had to make mine into large pancake sizes, which turned out just fine.  At times the edges got a bit crispy, so I ended up cutting those off with a pizza cutter!
Preparing the injera

Preparing the injera: rolling up a cooled piece while others are still cooling off

All of the prepared injera: two dishes for the injera servings and the main serving platter, ready for the Ethiopian stews

All of the prepared injera: two dishes for the injera servings and the main serving platter, ready for the Ethiopian stews.  If we had a real mitad, I wouldn’t have to layer the small pieces around the platter because a single piece would have been big enough for the entire thing!  (In the background you can see a jar of messy brown stuff: that’s my remaining teff starter.)

For the actual Ethiopian stews, we followed these recipes:

Here is the final display of everything!

The final display! Salad (in the centre), Yemiser W'et (brown spicy lentils), Gomen (Collard greens), and Atar Allecha (spiced yellow split spea pureé).

The final display! Salad (in the centre), Yemiser W’et (brown spicy lentils), Gomen (Collard greens), and Atar Allecha (spiced yellow split spea pureé).  The multiple pieces of injera become less noticable when the stews are served on the platter.

It was absolutely delicious (and vegan!).  In the end, all of the injera was eaten, including the one lining the serving platter, as is tradition. I must say, that even though veggie burritos from Santana’s and Cotijas in San Diego are probably my favourite food item, Ethiopian is probably my favourite meal for its flavours and the experience.

If anybody has any tips on where to find teff flour in Nottingham (or nearby) so that I don’t have to order it, that would save quite a few quid in the future.  Or, if you live in San Diego or the Bay Area where we know Ethiopian restaurants exist, and you would like to visit us soon, we’ll reimburse you if you bring us some teff!

Snow at the University

These are from last week:

Trent Building through the trees

Trent Building through the trees

Some steps near the archeology and classics building

Some steps near the archeology and classics building

Highfield House in the snow, where the department of Theology and Religious Studies abides

Highfield House in the snow, where the department of Theology and Religious Studies abides

Whenever I see something like this, I think of the scene from Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo yells to his hobbit mates, "Stay off the road!"

Whenever I see something like this, I think of the scene from Fellowship of the Ring when Frodo yells to his hobbit mates, “Stay off the road!”

Entrance to the Highfield House

Entrance to the Highfield House

My Adviser on BBC Radio

charlesdarwinFast-forward to 1 hour, 14 minute mark and you can hear my adviser Conor Cunningham, along with others, talking for about 15 about faith and evolution in light of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species:

BBC Radio Ulster: Sunday Sequence with William Crawley

[Note: There’s a chance that the BBC iPlayer may not work outside the UK, my apologies, although if you Google around a bit, there may be ways around this.]

Short Term 12

My friend Daniel just won the best short film award at Sundance 2009 for his film Short Term 12! [via Dave-O]


Symposium on Christ, History and Apocalyptic

A series of posts has begun around Nate Kerr’s book Christ, History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission over on the Church and Postmodern Culture blog.  First up is Joshua Davis on the introductory chapter 1, who has just posted his engagement on Monday.  The conversation is already picking up nicely.

Here is the rest of the schedule:

  • 19 January – Chapter 2: “Ernst Troeltsch: The Triumph of Ideology and the Eclipse of Apocalyptic”, response by David Congdon
  • 26 January – Chapter 3: “Karl Barth: Foundations for an Apocalyptic Christology”, response by John McDowell
  • 2 February – Chapter 4: “Stanley Hauerwas: Apocalyptic, Narrative Ecclesiology, and ‘the Limits of Anti-Constantinianism’ “, response by John W. Wright
  • 9 February – Chapter 5: “John Howard Yoder: The Singularity of Jesus and the Apocalypticization of History”, response by Douglas Harink
  • 16 February – Chapter 6: “Towards an Apocalyptic Politics of Mission”, response by James K. A. Smith
  • 23 February – Concluding response by Nathan R. Kerr (although he has already been providing helpful clarifying comments already)

Also, Nate informs me that Cascade Books is still offering a 40% off discount if the book purchased through their site using the discount code “KERR40”, bringing the book down to $16.80 (significantly cheaper than Amazon).

Dave Belcher informs us that there will be a panel at this year’s Wesleyan Theological Society conference on Nate’s book as well.  Panelists include Scott Daniels, John Wright, Sam Powell, and Michael Cartwright, with Nate responding, and Dave Belcher at the moderating helm.

Observations Meta: open letters partial

If you google “rad things” the first search result is my blog.  If you were feeling lucky with that term, then “hi!”

To all the Fergie fans looking for something substantial: sorry.  You are the ones finding my blog the most from search terms in the last quarter, which is sad.

To those looking for “Ezekiel 4:12Open Link in New Window bread”, thanks for having a sense of humour and reading the full context.

Searching for “nazbo”, this humble blog will appear as its second search result, most likely due to Ben Myer’s ability to have a theological slashdot/digg effect (or the lesser-known “wanged”) whenever he links to anything.  To coin a simple, almost too-obvious phrase for this effect: Myered.  Do with that what you will.

Brief Thoughts on Irony


It is often said by the British that Americans do not understand irony. I think this is true depending upon which swath of Americans are being referred to, but by no means is it true in my circles of friends on the West coast. If I remember correctly, though, the place I heard this generalisation uttered was referring more to American pop culture: whereas American pop culture is more defined by glitz, glorification of celebrity, explosions and violence on television on movies, British pop culture, from what I can tell thus far, seems to be more defined by–yes–irony, wittiness (or attempts thereof), and sly humour.

Having now lived in England for a short period of about six months, I’m not so sure if irony is as ‘essential’ to the culture (if there can be such a thing) as just the fact of societal indirectness. When it comes to humour, this is great. But when it comes to relationships it seems like at its worst, such indirectness can quickly become passive aggressive writ large. Although, perhaps Americans are just too direct, too aggressive.

Now, on one level, as long as it moves beyond it’s stylistic embodiments in culture, irony is perfectly fine. Heck, I even wrote an MA thesis partly on irony (“Contradiction, Paradox, and Irony: Theological and Philosophical Stances of Hegel and Kierkegaard”). Søren Kierkegaard, in more ways than one, was an ironic figure, and even extoled the virtues (so to speak) of indirectness and indirect communication. In so many ways, especially within his context of Christendom, Kierkegaard’s approach seems to me the right one — and are we not in the same context?

Yet, I am not always so sure about this. Because of it’s tendencies toward sarcasm (of the biting kind), and because real relationships don’t really seem to work very well if one person thinks they can really be a gadfly, I am reminded of when Jesus said that we should let our “yes be yes” and our “no be no” (Matthew 5:37Open Link in New Window; James 5:12Open Link in New Window). Quintilian’s definition of irony is that the “phenomenon is different from the essence”; in other words, that when one speaks, they do not mean what they say. This is the famous definition of Socratic irony.

I am not entirely sure what to make of this yet… I went to sleep last night thinking of this for some reason. Clearly, I am not going to make some banal claim such that “see, Socrates isn’t Christian” or other obviously anachronistic idiocies. Kierkegaard/Anti-Climacus is correct when he talks about the indirect communication of the God-man in Practice in Christianity, which is something quite different from one’s communication. It’s like the indirectness of the God-man was more an existential one of stance or ‘comportment’. But then, I am reminded that Jesus Christ is the Father’s communication as the Word, so then I get confused again. I’m just thinking aloud.

Holiday Visit & Travel


Wrong-side-of-the-road driving, but  everybody does it so it’s okay.

On Christmas day, Tiana and I drove to Manchester to pick up Tiana’s Mum who was to visit for just under two weeks.  We had to rent a car on Christmas Eve because no forms of public transportation are running on Christmas day.  So, we picked up a car complete with GPS, which was rather helpful.  “Go straight through the roundabout, second exit.”  “Turn left, then right.”  “Turn left, then, left.”  “Turn around.”  “Turn around as soon as possible.”  Oh wait — that’s what happens when you start going in the wrong direction for too long.

Driving on the left (some say wrong) side of the road wasn’t too hard, but it definitely took some getting used to.  Roundabouts were easy enough, but turning right in intersections seemed counter intuitive because of having to pull into the left lane.  Keeping oneself positioned right-of-centre was a little difficult at first (especially since in the States you are left-of-center in the road), but I got the hang of it…after going over a few curbs.  We rented a car a second time toward the end of the trip and I forgot to tell the rental place to get an automatic so I had to end up driving a manual.  Ultimately, I did just fine, it’s just that on the first night when taking it home on New Years Eve during rush hour, I stalled it about six or seven times.  At least I didn’t put it in reverse going 70 mph, like I did once with my old car (Hi, Rusty!).  All in all I probably put in somewhere between 400-500 miles of driving doing two trips back and forth to Manchester, and one trip to Warwick Castle & Stratford-upon-Avon and back.

Here is us at Warwick Castle: (Haley Smith came too! she took the pic)


We were scouting locations for In Reverent Fear’s next music video. They love castles, armor, mountains, and all things epic.

Now that I’ve rambled on long enough about driving, we did do some pretty cool stuff, like visiting Warwick Castle on New Year’s Day (see above), which was totally magnificent.  I’m not sure I’ve been to a castle that was still in one piece, more or less (ehem, Nottingham Castle!).  We could have probably spent all day there, but we saw most of what we came to see I think.  Henry VIII owned it at one time but I don’t think he lived there.  Did you know he wore a codpiece?  Dumb!

After Warwick Castle, we drove to Stratford-upon-Avon to see Anne Hathaway’s cottage.  I have some pics of the outside, but they wouldn’t let me take any of the inside for the usual vague “insurance concerns” reasons.  You know, the usual Jedi mind trick of “these are not the droids you’re looking for” can turn tourists into mush.

We had other fantastic times together, walking around Nottingham visiting shoppes, showing Tiana’s mum to decent pub food, visiting Sherwood Forest (the Major Oak lives up to its name), and even did a little exploring in the basement of our building where we discovered a bunch of old photography developing equipment.  There was a box of rejected photos, some of which I kept so that I can write horror stories about their contents later (don’t worry, nothing ‘bad’).

We rang in the New Year by watching a live BBC video feed on our laptop (which occurred the night before the Warwick Castle visit)


Tiana, our kitty Andi, myself, and some dude on the BBC rockin’ out to the New Year

One of the high points from the trip was when we went to this posh place here in Nottingham called ‘The Walk’.  My friend Alex pointed it out to me once, indicating that it was an example that there is still some class left in Nottingham.  He was quite right.

It was really nice to have Tiana’s mom visit.  It was good to have a lot of things to do during our first Christmas away from home.  I miss my own family quite a bit.  We did a little bit of Skyping on Christmas day which was nice, but it’s not the same.  Over the last year or so, I’ve grown rather fond of visiting my hometown of Merced.  For reasons I won’t go into, the only reason I have wanted to go home since I moved to San Diego in 1998 was to visit family — and that’s absolutely it.  I had no friends in Merced by the time I left for college, so aside from visiting family, there was nothing else for me to do there, so going home was always bittersweet.  It seems like it finally took about ten years for me to look forward to visiting the actual town–perhaps because I was about to move to the UK for three years.  Or more importantly, because my brother and sister-in-law have an extremely adorable daughter that I love so much.  I guess one way to inject life into a situation is to actually, um, give birth to it!

Pictures of all of the above will most likely be forthcoming in a soon-to-be-made Flickr gallery.  In the meantime, visit Tiana’s  blog where she’ll have a much more picture-laden post with her own set of highlights from the past two weeks. [Update: Here’s Tiana’s blog post.]