Sunday, March 31, 2013

Christ is Risen / Chrysostom

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  If any man is a devout lover of God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.  If any man is a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of the Lord.  If any has labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense   If any has worked from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.  If any has come at the third hour, let him have no misgivings;  because he will in no way be deprived thereof.  If any has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.  If any has tarried even until the eleventh hour let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first;  He gives rest to him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as to him who has worked from the first hour.  And he shows mercy on the last, and cares for the first and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts.  And He both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord;  and receive your reward, both the first, and the likewise the second.  You rich and poor together, hold high festival.  You sober and you heedless  honor the day.  Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast.  The table is full-laden;  feast you all sumptuously.  The calf is fatted;  let no one go away hungry.  All of you, enjoy the feast of faith:  Receive all the riches of loving-kindness.  Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.  Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave.  Let no one fear death, for the Savior's death has set us free.  He who was held prisoner of it, has annihilated it.  By descending into Hell, he has made Hell captive.  He angered it when it tasted his flesh.  And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry:  Hell, said he, was angered, when it encountered You in the lower regions.  It was angered for it was abolished.  it was angered, for it was mocked.  It was angered,for it was slain.  It was angered for it was overthrown.  It was angered, for it was fettered in chains.  It took a body, and met God face to face.  It took earth, and encountered Heaven.  It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.  O Death, where is your sting?  O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.  Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.  Christ is risen, and the Angels rejoice.  Christ is risen, and life reigns.  Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.  For Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.  To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.  Amen.  (John Chrysostom)

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Thank you for sound,
for running water in the eaves-trough,
for dripping here and there and everywhere,
for shoes crunching on loose gravel,
for cars splashing through the puddles
(wasn't worth washing them)
for a saw screaming somewhere in an open garage,
on a Saturday. It seems like the loveliest sound, today.
Thank you for sun on my closed eyes.
And thank you for thanking you.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Some reflections on meeting a Quaker on-line

I have recently come to know a person of Quaker creed or practice on-line and held a long-standing discussion with him, unbeknownst to me that he was a Quaker.  For some time, I thought he was a Swedenborgian.   All this is because he did not tell me that he was a Quaker because labels should not matter, according to him, and any who don't like creeds.  He contented himself with berating me for everything I hold dear, the Bible as historically true, Luther's sermons, the catechism, etc.  This was supposed to be intellectual jousting and good exercise for the brain or judging our biases or whatever aim.  I admit that there was some limited benefit to it all, though I have no sports-man-type bone in my body. I don't play sports.  I don't watch sports.  I don't argue for a sport.

Now, in terms of Quakers, I had not known that they actually really exist.  They were something aking to a Unicorn to me, available only in myths and American fables, as well as pictured on cereal boxes.  But it turned out that there are actually living Quakers, in these very days.

It also turned out that I was a "Fundamentalist".  The "Fundamentalist" is to me also something of a Unicorn, as I had not known any "Fundamentalists" before this time, and certainly had not know that I was one of them.  The things you discover.  "Fundamentalist" had always been a derogatory term to me, something more of a Monster than a Unicorn, actually, an ogre of nasty disposition and narrowness of mind, if not simply a pitiful creature of mental incapacity.  This was when I was not termed an "x-tian" instead, which reminds me more of a Martian--just a very strange, impossible thing, not worthy of the word "Christ" anyhow, (who does not seem to get mentioned, at all, under any circumstance).  So, no; one could not just simply be a Christian.

It has turned out, on superficial googling, that Quakers do not believe in celebrating Easter or Christmas, nor Baptisms and the Lord's Supper.  The Bible is optional these days.  Otherwise, they believe what happens to come to them at the moment, so they cannot really be pinned down on anything.  Except for their anti-x-tian sentiments. Which I have experienced but wasn't told about.  I feel like I was trapped to let my guard down, just so I could undergo some sort of cure by beating over the head.  Somehow, the force of the non-doctrinal argumentation was supposed to sway me to... what?

Complicating for me, and likely for others in the world is that really Quakerism is unknown, though I heard on the radio the other day in a CBC lecture that the famous (not so famous to me until the lecture) philosopher Spinoza also had contacts with Quakers in Amsterdam, in his day.  In any case, the famous American stories are not that widely disseminated outside the United States and I have only the foggiest ideas of their heroes.  Lately, perhaps, the movies have been a little more historical and one can get a picture of what went on before.  Mostly, we get the shoot-them-dead variety of entertainment from south of the border. But the Quaker does not believe in historical things but in what is being revealed right now, so he may be excused for not propagating his stories along with the non-existing dogmas.

Of course, it is not true that there is no dogma.  There always is dogma.  I won't get into that today.  For example the broad rimmed hat means something.  Clothing issues by the way are part of the dogma, a considerable body of doctrine, in fact.

I will leave this here, today.  It is Maunday Thursday.  I am cognizant of the fact that my Quaker friend (though I may be his "enemy" in his books) will not be celebrating anything about holy week and he will resent my doing so.  Not that the keeping of days it was matters, but my friend also does not believe that Christ died for the sins of the world, nor for his, nor for mine.  And this does not make us brothers and sisters in any faith, even the faith that we are indeed sinners, which he does believe.  Being sinners, however, is public knowledge about all of us, as that any perceived saintliness about ourselves and each other rubs off pretty quickly, so that is really not a faith;  it is just public knowledge.   This saintly dude below, included.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013



"The Church, indeed, consists of men, each of whom as a citizen of an earthly kingdom is called upon to do his political duties, as well as his other duties in the name of the Lord Jesus. For ordinary purposes in ordinary life, it may not be important, or even perhaps possible, for a man to distinguish that which is incumbent on him as a citizen of an earthly realm from that which is incumbent upon him as a child in the family of God.

But the distinction is of vast importance in regard to those who are called to office and ministry in Christ’s Church. The terms of their commission lay down the limits of what they are to do by Christ’s authority; they have no commission to put the affairs of society right, or to eradicate the evils in this present naughty world. In the Gospel of the grace of God, they have committed to them the supreme means of touching men personally and inspiring them with high but practical ideals. This is the grandest work to which any man can give himself; and it is a miserable thing if he fails to put his best energies into this task, and prefers instead to compete with journalists and politicians in guiding some project for social reform.

It is to forsake the fountain of life and to strain at accomplishing some apparent improvement by taking up implements that are less certain and less effective, even for securing human welfare, than the means of grace instituted by Christ Himself… Christ sent His apostles on evangelistic work and bade them administer the sacraments and exercise pastoral care; but He did not enjoin them to agitate for social reforms."

Johann Michael Reu, Homiletics

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Children's Rights

Below is a comment I made on a thread about homosexual marriage.  Someone else had raised the issue of children.  Being an adoptive mother, I have always held this issue close to my heart.  Having adopted around 1990, we were involved with a private agency that promoted open adoption.  At time, open adoption was still somewhat new and certainly broke the molds of my thinking and feeling.  But now, truly, I have to say that this is the humane option.  

Children become – and have already become – objects which others have the right to as opposed to subjects with rights themselves.  (Andrew)
This is really the most weighty point of all. What about the children?
The moment some raises the point that children ideally are raised in a home with their own biological mothers and fathers, the cry goes up that this hardly ever happens. There is so much divorce, etc. Yes, we know there is divorce and we know divorce is traumatic for children. But this goes way beyond the difficulties involved in changing your living arrangements. A person needs to know where he or she comes from. This is not trivial. A person needs to know her mother and her father. In Germany, the supreme court just ruled that someone conceived via insemination has the right to know the father, the sperm-donor.
Why does is always matter so much to people? Why are their lives consumed with finding a birth mother or a birthfather? Why are these teary stories always in the media? Because we need to know. We need to know so that we can know ourselves. A part of a person is incomplete when the relationship with the biological parent is missing. It is a human right to know your parents. And if you cannot live with your parent, you need to have a good reason to feel satisfied. Why did my mother place me for adoption… ? What were the reasons? Does it make sense? Did she care about me? Or I am I just trivia. People become obsessed with this.
Yes, yes, there are reasons why some of these relationships are not wise or feasible or sustainable… but again, the undesirable results don’t allow us to abandon all efforts at reaching the best outcomes. In Australia, just last week, the prime minister apologized to a conference center full of women for the decades of pressure put on single moms to release their children for adoption. A child is not a puppy. I don’t want or get a child just to complete the picture of a nice, little home. A child is a brand-new human person, created out of the love of a man and a woman. This is the bed-rock of existence.
Adoptees are the only party to an adoption without a voice. While adults make (and are expected to make) many decisions on behalf of their children, adoption is the only decision made for children that displaces them permanently. This isn’t to say that adoptive placements can’t be positive, growth-enhancing, and give adoptees a loving, supportive environment, but it can never negate the fact that there is another family out there with whom the adoptee is intimately connected. How adoptees acknowledge (or don’t) and come to terms (or don’t) with this dual ‘belonging’ is a question each adoptee has to answer for her/himself.
The adoptee or the child of sperm-donation has no choice in the matter. The impact of this needs to be fully considered, but one rarely hears about it.

In former times, when adoptions occurred they would involve orphans or extended family looking after children.  Or else the father would remarry and there would be a step-mother, which, after learning all of Grimm's fairy tales, was also not always an excellent solution.  But, no doubt, a step-mother can be easily demonized, no matter what she does.  The human heart will always cry self-pity and neglect.  Such, we are.  Anyhow.  And now, society is such, that hardly a family has the means to keep anyone at home for childrearing.  It has become a matter of funds even when there are two parents.  Who can take on an additional child?  Still, where ever possible and where ever reasonable, a child needs to have sufficient closeness to his or her natural family, mother and father. 
A terrible mistake was also made when various church charities came to this country and removed the aboriginal children to residential schools.  The well-known end of this story is most tragic. Anything that can be learned from this nightmare should be learned from this. 
Another mistake is being made in Africa where well-meaning charities set up orphanages when instead funds should be channeled to the surviving grand-mothers and older siblings to raise those who have not died of HIV/AIDS.  The orphanage strategy is very bad and we've discussed this previously (I'm not sure of the thread right now;  maybe I can link to it later.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

On Thomas Nagel in the National Post

Let's pair this with something someone searched the other day:

Hutchison quotes the remarks of Francis Bacon, who said that final causes are like vestal virgins, dedicated to the gods but unproductive, and, he continues, "The Aristotelian classification that comes closest to modern scientific views of cause is the efficient cause."

Just at this point Luther would have raised violent protest.  If modern science agrees in Hutchison's estimate of its philosophy, it is deceiving itself.  Luther would have said that just this is the basic error of modern science--it professes to know more than it knows.  In reality it can find only material and formal, or instrumental, causes, but in its ignorance it imagines that it has found efficient and final causes.  It is this attitude which is behind the "scientific" assertion that diseases cannot be caused by devils because they are caused by germs, or that God cannot answer prayers for rain because rain is the result of the interaction of complicated meteorological factors.  Man, with his reason, can only deal with phenomena, and he ought to be conscious of the limitations which this places on all his investigations. 
...Since reason cannot truly know God, and since God is the only true efficient cause, and God's will is the only true final cause, therefore reason can never go beyond material and instrumental causes.  Consequently reason can never know anything correctly.

In parallel, just like reason cannot go beyond material causes and deal with anything that really matters correctly, neither can Darwinism tell us anything important because it does not deal with consciousness

This much used quote of Einstein fits in, in a way, too:

Einstein also studied physis and inadvertently ended up “beyond” it, in meta-physis. And Einstein also had notions about religion that still divide lesser minds today. Was he an atheist? A believer? Everybody wanted to know. So Einstein penned an answer, which concludes (page 387 in this biography):

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.

You cannot take the metaphysics out of the physics.

But Einstein just talks about an emotional experience.  This is how far he can go with it.

But the mysterious, the numinous, the worshipful--it is a powerful experience common to all mankind.  It is not disconnected from physics formulas, or other scientific understanding, nor contrary to it.  The more we learn the more we have new impulses and reasons to marvel. This is not only the impulse for art and science but it also is the impulse for religion.  This is why we have retreated to the mechanistic universe.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Face to Face time and Screen to Screen time and Neuroplasticity

I love my screen time but things definitely need balancing.  If anyone would rather skype with me, let me know.  The on-line world is often so rude, it also hard on the soul.

The snow-iest Palm Sunday, Ever / Wonderful English hymn: Ride on, ride on in majesty.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! Hark! All the tribes hosanna cry. 
Savior meek , pursue thy road, 
With palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die.
O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin
O'er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! The angel armies of the sky
Look down with sad and wond'ring eye
To see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! Thy last and fiercest strife is nigh.
The Father on His sapphire throne
Awaits His own annointed Son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die.
Bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
Then take, O God,
Thy pow'r and reign.

(LSB 441, public domain)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Finish Giertz sermon

After given several good examples from scripture and how the scenario can be used to indulge or oppose folk religion, Giertz finishes.

"...The real evil can only be cured through faith in Jesus.  The condition for that to happen is in the text:  Jesus met him in the temple.  There the Unknown became the Known.  That which one thought at one time and was at one time thankful to, He shows Himself not be the indispensable helper, He whom one always has reason to thank.

When Paul had preached in Athens, some people made fun of him, but others said, "We will hear you again about this."  So then Paul took leave from the gathering.  There were some who kept listening to him and came to faith.

And this is what even we pastors have to count on.  No matter how skillfully we connect to that which is right in folk religion, many will scoff at us when we preach the Gospel.  The offense and stumbling block that God made when He offered His own Son as an atonement for our sins cannot be spirited away by an older congenial understanding of contemporary life and its people.

There is no surer method of distorting the Gospel than to demand that it shall be preached so "That a modern man can understand it "if only really means by "understanding"  the same as "accept."  However, it is really that he shall be able understand it in the meaning that he understands what the issue is, even with the risk that he will be indignant, embittered, and aggressively opposed, even if before he was perhaps indifferent. If some react in this manner, so there is always the other side, just as in Athens, that a few come to faith.  And it was for their sake we are sent out with the message from the Unknown."  (p. 208)


The down side of being one who confronts is that some will become embittered or even aggressively opposed. Surely, there is always evidence for that kind of turn of events.  Giertz knew this, too.  In more than one way he also put his own weight against the secularizing of the Swedish church or the weakening of the scriptural texts.  He did it in a way that tried to magnify God rather than just attack people.  He let the text be incisive, not weakening it to please itching ears, yet called people to faith in Christ in a fatherly manner, not deterred by those who disagreed. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Knowing your enemy / Cartoons ridiculing Christianity

Talking about knowing your enemy, I just googled "Cartoons ridiculing Christianity."

This is one article I read:

Firstly, it mentions that there are now fewer newspaper cartoonists than there used to be.  This is supposedly blamed on the fact that there are always these cries going up for "civility".

Quote:  For some strange reason, it's considered "wrong" by more and more people to mock, ridicule, or otherwise attack foolish ideas, foolish politicians, and foolish decisions. Since when? Why? Ridicule can in fact be one of the best weapons against the powerful, the privileged, and those who would presume to control others.

The problem is seen to be our intolerance of the offensive cartoon.  The struggle is against the powerful, privileged and those who want to control.

I would add that a neutral cartoon is actually an illustration. The function of editorial cartoons is to attack and subvert those in power and their official pronouncements (which are, inevitably in class society, lies). 

Here we have the contrast between a neutral cartoon which only illustrates, and an editorial cartoon which is meant to subvert power and official pronouncements, which are inevitable "lies".  An editiorial cartoon must at least be oppositional, if not revolutionary.  Whether veiled or overt the opposition is always there, and that is why the reader loves it.

The message is pared down to the minimal essence.  "When done well, a cartoon reaches the reader's consciousness with instant clarification, turning a previously complex or obscured concept into something now obvious."

This is kind of good and as someone has pointed out to me, Jesus parables serve a similar purpose.  We usually say they are earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.  We can't exactly say the same thing about editorial cartoons. And therein does lie a serious difference.  They may have a complex and obscure concept in mind, but they are not teachings about God.  Some would like the make it sound like that is the same thing, but it is not.  But I concede a certain overlap. 
I have often used the phrase resistance through ridicule. When we use humor to expose absurdity and hypocrisy, and inspire our readers to laugh at those in power, then we help our readers to be less afraid. When our respect for the powerful switches to contempt, we can better imagine them toppling from their lofty positions. We can imagine toppling them ourselves. 

Personally, I have had these kinds of encounters with people who think that they should treat me this way.  If I, per chance, advance a reasonable argument they can just heap contempt upon me that should satisfy something.  First of all, I am no person in power or have any power to control anything. I am just a housewife, living in a cold climate, who also likes to read.   If my argument possibly is powerful and someone finds it oppressive it could be the weight of the matter or the truth that's not liked.  (It is worth taking into consideration. Maybe.  Yes?)  Most often, I quote people who are much smarter than I.  Quoting is also not well liked.  Yes, yes, we should keep it short. 

I have met people on-line (in real life people don't dare do this to each other), who just simple call me "immature", "bigoted", "medieval", "morbid", "bitch", worthy of contempt as per Matth. 23, etc.;  thankfully I forget the rest.   The ad hominems should really be beneath them or any of us.  But they are not.  When the argument is bad, just yell louder, is the thing that comes to me.  I am not their oppressor.  And if they have a different opinion they might try and state it plainly.  However, stating things plainly is also not wanted.  You have to state things ambiguously.  So, in the end, when a simple woman explains something, the way to deal with it is with mocking and ambiguity, as to topple the existing authorities.  -- Oh, all these revolutionaries.  

Ok, political and doctrinal review and critiques have their place and surely also the simple man and woman, wannabe revolutionary or housewife, should be able to engage in them.  Especially they, actually, as opposed to the career critiquer.  I give you that.  And we are not against simplifying and brevity where appropriate and when well done.  I give you that, too.  And they think, that I, as a confessing Lutheran, present some kind of oppressive power.  I have no idea what oppressive power that would be.  I have pretty much no power, at all.  My church has pretty much no power, at all.  We go to church out of our own free will and need and we pay for it, ourselves.  We let groups use our buildings for all kinds of things.  We hatch, match and dispatch those who barely associate with us, using our facilities, ministers and comfort in the hopes that they may become part of our community.  But we are some kind of oppressive power. 

So maybe it's not that ridicule is "mean," but rather that ridicule -- at least when done well -- causes us to laugh at the targets. Laughing at powerful people and institutions deprives those people and institutions of some of the authority which they depend upon.

--Only if you can't laugh at yourself and your positions depends on your supposed superiority.  But to simply laugh at a reasonable proposition, to oppose things just for the sake of opposing, to ridicule for the sake of ridiculing or your own ego, is not a responsible way of proceeding.  It really is immoral.

The use of sober, calm, rational critiques don't achieve this because they typically presume that the power being used is legitimate. Instead, the focus of the critique is on specific decisions or actions that were poorly handled. But why should we necessarily grant the premise that the power being misused is legitimate in the first place? Why shouldn't we go after the basis of their claims to power in the first place?

BECAUSE, if your argument is poor and theirs is good, they may actually have the moral authority to say what they are saying.  So, to simply attack the basis, their power without actually having the moral high ground or a reasonable thing to say, is just hooliganism.  But, instead, they like to call themselves "prophets" now.  They should remember that a prophet has something useful to say.  He does not just simply oppose "power". 

I do agree that satire and cartoons can be highly effective, so can stories, like Jesus' parables.  People have gone to bite size information these days, much of it encapsulated into tweets and Facebook shares.  And really, one can learn a lot from a well-formulated, well-drawn, little piece.  And humor is powerful.  

But we do need civil discourse.  It does not serve to simply "hate", as they say, or simply "blaspheme", which used to be against the law, or simply "oppose power", as we have explored.  

Here is a response to the article we've been dealing with:

I have received hate emails from readers for my own online comic strip, Cockroach Comix which runs at comicssherpa. Usually the messages come in two forms. The first is out-and-out hateful, telling me to stop oppressing christians (I never mention Christ or Chrisitanity, just religion in general). The second type consists of plaintive whining that begs me to be civil and stop dragging comics through the secular muck and to stop insulting believers with blasphemy, and that I will be prayed for. Next time I get a batch of them I will openly incorporate them into a strip where the bugs present the messages verbatim, and discuss them with readers. All told I include very few storylines with the anti-religion theme, but they garner the most hate mail.

This too, I have seen done on-line.  Someone who had private conversations, even, who had encouraged them all the way, and framed the discussion and set the tone, indulged in what he would know would be "blasphemous" to the other, then turned around the publish excerpts to show how stupid, mean or ignorant the conversation partner was.  

And to be insulted by the fact that someone said that they will pray for you is just the height of it all.  Yes, praying for you is the height of oppressive behavior, the height of hate, the height of ludicrousness   It stings even more than a mocking cartoon. 

The dark side of cartooning is that they have often also served to dumb down issues, or to incite in favor of another power, one as evil as the one that is being decried.  The masters of propaganda were, of course, the Nazi's, and we're recently looked at how they could rise to power.  Their use of media was ahead of the time and masterful.  There were posters and comics and magazines.  You name it, all for the consumption of the "masses", for those who would buy into it. 

Here is one example of a poster I just googled.  It summarizes  the problem at the time.  A great hate and fear of Bolshevism was used to whip the people into supporting National Socialism.  This one says: "Bolshevism without its mask." 

And indeed, Bolshevism was to be feared.  There were the uprisings during the Weimar Republic, there were the purges in Soviet Russia, there was the purposeful mass starvation in Ukraine...  There was the international communist organizations that were poised to bring more countries under Soviet style leadership   The answer lay in National Socialism--not!  We always need to be leery.  I wouldn't worry so much about the people who are offering to pray for you.  

 Mocking also as encouraged by Dawkins.

Giertz sermon cont. / another installment

From Giertz, Then Fell the Lord's Fire.

"Paul does not always connect to folk religion. From Athens he goes to Corinth   Here he says himself that he will know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, just that which folk religion doesn't know about.  It has been suggested that this was because of the experience in Athens, and that from this one can determine that the chief lesson we should learn from this is not to attempt to find any connection in natural revelation before preaching the Gospel.

This lesson will hardly to.  Acts does not put forward Paul's preaching at the Aeropagus as an example of what not to do.  It is an example of when it is right to make such a connection. But one shall then do as Paul.  One goes into the human situation and lets them recognize themselves in his example in his searching, but at the same time draws up lines between what is right and what is false in the folk religion's conventional and imaginary solution  to then bring forward the full weight and determination of the message from the Unknown, the Gospel of Jesus Christ."  (p. 205)


Knowing only Christ crucified vs. knowing also the local folk religion, or situation, or politics, or philosophy, or needs... There is not really a contradiction here, as Giertz is trying to show.

Someone told me recently "Know Thy Enemy".  I did not understand it at the time.  I don't view people as enemies, but I have had several now that I am getting older.  But basically, I am very naive, I don't view people as enemies, nor discussions as one-up-man-ship, or empathize with the psychology of what they call "pissing-contests", call it what you will.  Maybe it's the female, maybe I am deceiving myself, maybe it's true, or maybe some of all of that...

But the local folk religion, the pervailing politics and philosophy, our own sinful flesh, death and the devil...  they are our enemies.  We need to know them.  Know thyself.  Know that the devil is prowling around seeing whom he may devour.  Just like I need to keep a weary eye on my on daily foibles and check them the best I can, we need to keep an eye on the culture, on what seems intuitive but isn't true, on my "inner light" which might actually be darkness.  All of these can be our enemies.  We need to know them if we want to bring something new to them.

If we want to know only Christ crucified, we need to know why we need a Christ crucified and how he is different from other gods and the idols of self-seeking and our own insatiable desires.  The theology of the cross is not the theology of glory which we like by nature and are drawn to by nature. We need something that contradicts this natural drawing to self-satisfaction.  The Gospel will not be "relevant" if the problem is not understood.  Natural religion tells us thing about ourselves and our world which are true to some extent but it also leaves us in the dark.

See also today's post about the conscience here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Giertz sermon cont.

We are in a sermon from Then Fell the Lord's Fire  Third installment.  Please the last several posts for more.

"Paul only starts from the natural revelation to show man's situation and to get the audience to recognize it again.  He deepens natural revelation and purifies it.  God is already here, we live in Him, and it is from this we get our thought and longing. But Paul does not build on all this when he gets to the essentials.  He only makes sure that they do not draw some other conclusions than what can be drawn, namely that coarse idolatry must not be right."  (p. 202)

"...But when it comes to the answer, the gospel message, then Paul draws no conclusions from what the audience already knew.  Instead, he started from a completely new message.  And he did it with boldness and joy.  He knew that he had a redemptive word to say." (p. 203)

"If we ask how it comes that men so often believe that folk religion is the same as Christendom, so have we here one of the reasons.  The proclamation attempts to make an affiliation but makes it in a false manner.  'To speak in a manner as men understand' can be really dangerous.  Sometimes it gets a bit slippery when it comes to the line that lies within their horizon, when it in fact lies outside.  Sometimes one crosses the line but speaks so cautiously that the message doesn't reach home.  Perhaps afterwards they say what Paul spoke about: 'God has determined a day when He will come to judge the world with righteousness through one man He has appointed.' But one has done it with so many strange words about the eschatological final perspective or the double output, or with so many vague hints about love having the last word and that god will be all in all, that no one would understand that there really was any question that he himself might be reprobate."  (p. 204).


The connection to folk religion or superstitious thinking, or manipulating the gods, etc. is only  to help the hearer know about what is wrong with his system.  The Gospel itself is a completely new, joyful and separate message.  "Incommensurate", as someone I know likes to say, with what has come before.  As Paul says in other places, I consider it all garbage and leave it behind, so that I might know Christ.  The old and the new can't live together in the same wine skin.   The old leaven and the new leaven, or a little leaven ruins the whole batch.  You can't mix law and gospel, they are a dialectic resolved only in daily trust in Christ and acceptance of his word and dealing with us.

Giertz goes through a number more examples of how the message can be watered, in the following paragraphs, down to no recognition and complete loss of the essence.  This is a warning to pastors and very instructive.  Just this sermon would seem worth getting the book for.

So much for today.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gietz sermon cont. from a couple of days ago.

We are in Giertz' "And Then Fell the Lord's Fire", the sermon beginning on page 196.

The sermon on what Paul was doing in Athens and on this text "What you therefore worship as unknown, I proclaim to you..." (Acts 17:23) continues with further comparisons of the gods of what Giertz now starts calling "folk religion" with what Paul has come to proclaim.  The gods of the Athenians in the end are really self-made and one becomes the lords over them.  You can approach these gods with "demands and achievements: do ut des. (Quid quo pro. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.) " (p. 198)  If the god fails to deliver, he can be discarded.  All folk religion does this.

But from the God Paul proclaims comes a "new message.  He reveals himself.  And now He speaks through His envoys, the servants of the Word."

Gietz explains how our hearts have been prepared for this new word.  The natural religion, the folk religion, the self-made gods, the longing, the need, and the questioning, the asking about God is all already there in the hearer.  The atheist has a hard time in making himself heard because religion is part of being human.

How does Paul proceed?  "He begins by describing something that we know both through the natural revelation and the particular.  He proceeds also from that which is true in the natural religiosity, that which one can get to by taking hold of the light he already has received.  'The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth  does not live in temples made by man' (Acts17:24).  A stoic philosopher could also say all this.  And he could have agreed also when Paul continues, 'Nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.'"  (pp. 199, 200)

BUT when Paul refers to the natural revelation he is also citing the Old Testament.  His talk is consistent with the Word.  He is authorized to say what he says.  Thus he also can critique the folk religion.

"God does not live in temples that are made with hands, neither  does he need to be served by us men as if He were in need of anything."--!!!  (He is not manipulate-able.  He is not yours to lord over.)

Paul begins with the natural revelation of folk religion but draws the clear line between that which is true and false or speculation.  And he does this without attacking his hearers. (p. 201).  He describes God instead. God is powerful.  God does not need your gifts.  God does not live in temples...

"In all this lies a deep wisdom.  Not the least in the starting point:  to not attack wrongs without first noting what is right.  This is not just the captatio benevolentiae that the antique rhetoricians recommended as introduction to every speech.  But it is to know God's work and hold fast to it.  God has already been here among these people.  Therefore, there is something that precedes him."  (p. 201)


There is plenty to meditate on here, already, for the day.

It makes me think about how often the Bible says that we should be able to hear and discern God's word from the works that he has produced already.  So when Jesus is queried repeatedly about who he is, he says do not not my works speak for themselves?  Can't you hear?  Where have you been?

Also in Athens, God has been, already.  And also in Athens people have heard something.  But they are missing what only can be further revelation.  God became one of us and bore our guilt and rose from the dead.  And he does not need our sacrifice, our offerings, our manipulation.  He has already done it all.  He is the sacrifice.

God's might acts is what the proclamation is about and his mighty acts are ones of creation, and redemption of what was lost.  His good and gracious will be done, not ours. We ask him, but he does not need our prayers... He draws us and this drawing is happening somewhere, somehow in everybody.

Is philosophy and folk religion similar in many ways?  What about last century's word, the collective unconscious?  What are all the things we all know?  What are all the ways in which we try to manipulate our world?  How much do we deal with these points of connection?  What is the interface, as someone said the other day.  

Someone said to me recently, that the crucifix was like a medieval idol for him.  This misses the point.  The point is:  Who is God?  What does he do?  What has he promised?  How do I talk to the one who has sacrificed himself and is no asking me to mollify him with my sacrifice.  The image of the crucifix completely misses the point.  On whom does my heart hang?  From whom does my help come?  Who is my comfort and Lord?  See Luther on the first commandment.

This is also not about helping yourself or not helping yourself.  We help ourselves as far as our abilities go and as far as we do not break a moral law.  We work to bring home the bacon, etc.  But, in terms of things we cannot control or where ever we come upon our limits, and when we begin to pray, it is not our particular performance which controls God.  We pray because we are in utter need and he is God and Lord.  The image of the crucifix reminds us what God has done and how far he went.  We should view, hear, listen, repent and believe.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Philosophy Basics II / Paul in Athens

A little quote for us from the new translation of Giertz' Ordination Sermons, "Then Fell the Lord's Fire" (Magdeburg Press):  this one is for a pastoral conference in 1965, beginning on page 196.

"What you therefore worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you..."  (Acts 17:23)
We remember the word.  Paul had come to Athens for the first time in his life.  He had gone around and look at the celebrated city, which from its early greatness had now sunk to being something like Jena or Heidelberg, a university city for the sons of rich people, aesthetes, and philosophers... 
In this interest for news, there was also a place for religion.  It was open for debate, just like all news.  New cults were imported from the East.  New ways of thinking were launched from within philosophy.  Among all this the Athenians made themselves judges and sat in authority by their ability to rate philosophers, mystagogues, and theologians. 
Behind this interest there was also another longing, the human heart's desire for his Creator.  It could be so strong that the roles were cast, and men humbly stepped forward as supplicants before the altar and the idols where they found rest.  The religiosity that springs from this natural revelation is itself fairly the same in every age.  It oscillates between human arrogance that sets itself as judge over the divine and a restless worship that seeks after means to humor the divine and win its favor.  Sometimes it sinks down to magic that consists of a false sense between reaching for the unknown powers and the feeling of being their lord.  The ancient world was full of such magicians with their differing forms of witchcraft, books of the black arts, and amulets.  There was a more cautious religion among the sacrificing and worshiping people.  Among the intellectuals there was a more noble and spiritualized religiosity like the one pictured.  A man like Cicero is not very far away from the eighteenth century's religious enlightenment.  Even he could have gathered the essential contents of religion in these three words:  God, virtue, and immortality. 


Something on Motherhood

This came on my Facebook, yesterday.  There often come things about motherhood or grieving.  But this one was very true.

For all the mother's (including pregnant ones) in the world, this one is for you! - Author Unknown)

We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of"starting a family.""We're taking a survey," she says half-joking."Do you think I should have a baby?"

"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.

"I know," she says,"no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations."

But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.

I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking,"What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her.

That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of"Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moments hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her
baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.

However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.

Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself.

That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.

My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks.

I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child.

I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving.

I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike.

I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time.

I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes."You'll never regret it," I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.
Please share this with a Mom that you know or all of your girlfriends who may someday be Moms. May you always have in your arms the one who is in your heart.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Philosophy Basics

It seems that much of what is posted on the internet which goes, in one way or another, more or less, against orthodox Christianity--advocates a kind of ambivalence, mystery, dialectic, suspended belief, disbelief, pleasure vs. ethics dilemma resolved by "love" or "passion"--quoting from all sorts of men and women in a non-systematic, if not deliberately obfuscating way. This is seen as an ultimate kind of virtue producing creativity, innovation, art, joy, freedom.  Those would be the very same kinds of things we would hope to reap from an orthodox religious faith, also.  So, I don't really get the dichotomy.

An orthodox faith, has enough vagueness in it, as religion is by definition talking about things not seen and metaphysical.  It has been my hunch all along that the ditch is always deepest when it comes to sexual ethics. They will say that rules in love are contrary to real love and pleasure.  The orthodox person would say that you don't know a thing about love if you don't know about fidelity and sacrifice.  A person living in self-indulgence only will not be able to experience a true depth of love.

Anyhow, whether or not it takes me to far afield, I am always interested in what other's are thinking and how they are putting it.  And so, I am interested in getting an overview of the history of philosophy.  While driving along listening to the radio, I came across this broadcast, yesterday, on the CBC "Ideas" program:

It is an interview with a Nigel Warburten, who has lately been popularizing the stories of philosophers and their works.  There are also short, concise podcasts of his lectures available, in places such as below:

Hence, he is also called the virtual philosopher.  I listened to the 15 min. talk on Kierkegaard, which right away hit our false dichotomy between pleasure and ethics. Nice. 

It all seems pretty manageable:  philosophy in bite sizes might work for me.   

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Unreadable Book

In my local choir (not a church-choir)  we are singing "To Dream the Impossible Dream" from "The Man of La Mancha."

I had not heard this song in a long time, and I quite enjoy it.  Here is a good performance of it. The last time I heard it, I believe was at a Lutheran Marriage encounter retreat, we attended when we were first married.  Now, thirty years later, I can't say that this was a song that accompanied us and helped us quest for a wonderful marriage.  Nor have I read Don Quixote, yet.  But thirty eventful years have elapsed and what has held our marriage together through all trials and our hearts and minds comparatively sane,  has been our commitment to a Biblical faith and the grace we know personally in the person of Jesus Christ.  I would not wish to attempt life and marriage without it.  At times, when we have been completely drained, and through the death of Stefan we were both completely drained at the same time (there is a difference when only one is suffering and the other can help him up, and a time when both are crushed), there has only been the center of the word that could hold.  I don't know how else you could proceed.

Some people live by poetry, like perhaps this song.  Hope against hope.  Strive just to strive...  Keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, but where to?  Where are you going?  What's the point?

But something compelled me to write a short parody of the song, yesterday.

For some lengthy time, a book was out from the library, which I had tried hard to read but failed to comprehend.  "Postmodernism and the Revolution in Religious Theory.  Toward the Semiotics of the Event."

We see that there are no reviews on Amazon, at this date, and even the description falls short, mentioning mostly how brilliant the whole thing is but nothing in particular.  Really, it truly did seem brilliant to me, too.  Absolutely, the whole thing was brilliant.  That man knows what he is talking about, no doubt.  I just can't figure it out. I had no idea what any particular paragraph meant.

If I were a reluctant reader I would worry about my competence as a reader.  If I understood nothing at all about religion, I would worry about my baseline knowledge.  If I had not encountered free spirits and dialecticians and English professors, I would worry about my narrow field of vision.   I do have to admit I was not familiar with the writers he kept referring to and alluding to.  So, I guess, I was out of my depth.

But are books like this written for such a narrow audience, those thoroughly steeped in the theories about post-modernism?  How can one write a book about post-modernism that makes no sense to the average person, even the above average reader?

When I returned the book to the library, I encountered a professor, and I asked him what "toward the semiotics of the event" means.  He said that semiotics is about the symbol and that in post-modernism everyone interacts with the text in their own individual way.   I wish now that I understood what the writer of the book really wanted to say with pairing this with the "event".

Anyhow, on the same day, it was mentioned to me that there are United Church people who are looking for a music workshop that helps them find music for the United Church.  It is assumed that means music that does not mention God, or at least as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and other stipulations.  Probably "wretch" is out, too, as in Amazing Grace, and who knows what else, du jour.  I would hate to be their music director, too.  How can you fail to offend all the different and changing sensitivities?  There must be no way to be sure to be always offending when you are trying so hard to offend no one.  The problem reminded me of the "Gospel" choir workshop I attended with a beautiful big black woman singer.  It was a fascinating workshop and the art was breathtaking, but there was no "Gospel" in it.  I mentioned this issue to someone and she nearly slugged me.

Same day, mention was made that a spiritual counselor was teaching prayer "techniques", such as Mandala, etc. and whether such a person should be invited to speak.  The idea was not rejected out of hand and I suggested that we go for lunch with the individual.

All that put together from the "Dream the Impossible Dream" to the book on post-modernism, to the singing that sings to who-must-not-be named, to the prayer that is technique... resulted in this little verse below.  It is sung to the tune of "To Dream the Impossible Dream".  I have penned it.  I think it is brilliant.  If you would like to use it, let me know.  :)  Yours, truly.

To READ, the unreadable book!
To PRAISE, the unmentionable god!
To UNDERSTAND, the unintelligible symbol!
To FIGHT, where there is nothing to gain!

Just for myself,
to follow this star,
no matter how hopeless,
no matter how false...