I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Red Rock Videos

Here is some video at the top of Turtlehead Peak at Red Rock Canyon just outside of Vegas.

Here is a "wild" burro. Actually, he's kind of a scavenger trying to bum some food off of the tourists. A few cheese puffs spilled out of the mini van and the burro was quick to nibble them up! There was a huge crowd around him because "everybody loves the donkey."

Running Red Rock

Here is a map of Red Rock Canyon. It shows Scenic Drive, a loop of about 13 miles that circles through Red Rock Canyon. On all sides are really cool mountains and rocks.

Before I left for Vegas I saw the following page in the December edition of Runner's World:

I thought to myself that there was no way I could do a 13 mile run...I would have liked to do a 13 miler, but I just didn't think I was quite there yet. My max run was 8 miles, and I'm not sure it is recommended to make a jump from 8 miles to 13 miles.

So, we arrive in Vegas on Saturday. Early Sunday morning I go on a 7 mile run of the strip. We also walk a ton - all around the Vegas strip - on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. On Tuesday we took out 5 mile hike up Turtlehead Peak. So, needless to say I'm kind of tired. But my legs feel good and I start to wonder on Tuesday if it might not be possible for me to run Scenic Drive (13 miles) if I took it in two phases: Run half and then relax for a while and finish the next half. But then as I begin to consider the possibility I think to myself that maybe I should just run as far as I can go. If I can get 13 then great, but if not then I will just relax and take a break at some point.

So, on Wednesday morning I start out at about 1pm. By the time I start I am determined to get through all 13 miles. The first 5 miles are almost entirely uphill and it is all against wind! I take my time and try not to expend too much energy, but it is very slow moving, and it gets a bit discouraging when my ipod tells me after 5 miles that I am at a 15 minute per mile pace!

The 5 mile point is the highest part of the run, and I look out over the canyon and it is very beautiful. In addition to the scenery I am also inspired by the fact that the rest of the run will be downhill. Add to that the Switchfoot song "I dare you to move" and I am off and running. I begin to stride out and really cover some ground quickly - it is exhilarating, to say the least. And at this point I begin to enjoy the majesty of the mountains around me.

When I hit the 9 mile marker my total pace (for the first 9 miles) is 9 minutes per mile! That means that I went from 15 minutes per mile at the 5 mile mark to 9 minutes per mile in a span of only four miles. I must of been bookin' it! And I am having a lot of fun.

Once I hit the 10 or 11 mile marker then it starts to become a bit more difficult and I can start to feel it in my legs. But I'm still doing well and I finish 13.1 miles (half marathon distance) just under 9 minutes per mile.

Here I am just after the run

Here is the sky on my run

Here are the shoes that carried me through. (I think that it's about time to retire them.)

Red Rock Canyon

Dan and I went to Red Rock Canyon on Tuesday. It is located just west of Vegas and has some excellent scenery. We hiked up Turtlehead Peak - one of the more strenuous and difficult hikes at Red Rock. Round trip was about 5 miles. We also tried a bit of rock climbing. (I recommend you click or double click on the pictures to see a larger view and get the full effect of the incredible scenery.)

Here I am at the beginning of our hike up to Turtlehead Peak

Off in the distance is our destination: Turtlehead Peak. Kinda' looks like a turtle's head, eh???

A couple of pictures showing why Red Rock Canyon has the word "Red" in it.

Here we are at the beginning of our ascent

We continue on our hike up the mountain...

The view from the top.

More of the view from the top - The city off in the distance is Vegas

These are the rocks of Red Rock Canyon

Dan and I try our luck at climbing up some of the rocks...Rock climbing is really hard work. It requires balance and a heckuva lot of toughness - upper and lower body strength. But it is a lot of fun!

I proudly display one of my souvenirs from Red Rock Canyon.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Day Two Vegas Pics

Here are some pictures from day two. On some of these pictures I recommend clicking (or double clicking) on them to see them to see a larger size.

Here I am before my early morning Vegas run....a bit delusional - it's about 4am, but only 7am by my Indiana time. If you are into running/jogging I recommend getting out to Vegas and running the strip in the wee early hours. It was relatively deserted in the early morning, but it was still dark and most of the strip (especially on the south side) was still lit up and glowing. It was kind of funny because at one point I ran up on three guys who were walking and had spread out in such a way that I couldn't get through them or go around them. I kind of came up on them hoping they would hear me, but they didn't. So, I tapped one of the guys on the shoulder and said "Hey!" He jumped about 20 feet in the air and looked like he had seen a ghost. I couldn't help but laugh, and I patted him on the chest and said "Thanks" as I ran by and continued my run.

A fountain outside of The Venetian

Sex and skin is everywhere. There are flyers and business cards for strip joints and prostitution, etc, etc. Vegas has every pleasure and desire you could want - and then some...

A picture of the Vegas strip from above.
(Double click on this one to see it a bit larger. It looks better if it is bigger.)

Incarnation Reflections

Here are some snippets of verses from the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 49. I have been reflecting on these the last few days:

Isaiah 49:1 Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name...
5 And now the LORD says-- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength-- 6 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
13 Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones...
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me...
22 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders...
23 ...those who hope in me will not be disappointed."

These passages are so interesting to me...As if it were not enough for the Messiah to restore Israel ("It is too small a thing"!) he is also to be "a light for the Gentiles.".....The Messiah came to gather and to save from all nations and peoples and to "engrave" them on the palms of his hands. A reference to the crucifixion? I would guess so.

Vegas Videos

Here we are getting ready to leave - still in Indiana. This is my buddy, Dan.

Here I am before running the Vegas strip at 4am. I am rather tired and on looking at the video I think I appear somewhat delusional!

Here I am commenting immediately after running the Vegas strip....still a little delusional...

Waterfalls at the Mirage

"Pony up to the Pony"

Boxing with Joe Louis!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Vegas Day One

Not all that much time to do too much today, but we did hit the strip. A few things that a Vegas first-timer (from the cornfields of Indiana) notices: Vegas is bright, sexy, and money is flying around everywhere. The lights are everywhere - even drug stores sparkle and blink. Everywhere you look there is skin - fliers for prostitutes, strip clubs, etc., and ads for shows and showgirls. Basically, there is a lot of energy in Vegas.

Here is me on the plane.

Slot machines are everywhere. These are a few of the slot machines that greeted us when we stepped off of the plane. That's my buddy, Dan, standing next to them.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Does God meet all of our needs?

Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.
1 Corinthians 4:15

Most of us who are good Christians and were raised in good Christian homes and went to good Christian churches were taught that God can and does meet all of our needs. Particularly our spiritual and emotional needs. I want to take this post as an opportunity to question that.

From the moment of conception we rely on others to fulfill us. When we are born we require feeding. As babies we are helpless and if we don't get someone to feed us we die quite quickly. In fact, if we don't have the right kinds of food in the right amounts it will negatively affect our brain developments. This is clear enough in a physical sense, but it is also true in an emotional sense. If we are not touched and loved as babies it will negatively affect not only our physical but our emotional development. And this is true at all stages of development: We rely on father, mother and friends to provide affirmation, love, security, and a host of other things necessary for us to develop normally. In the absence of these things we become scarred and develop disorders and coping mechanisms.

Ok, so we are on the same page so far. But then what if we carry this over into the spiritual world. Can we say the same kinds of things? Do we need spiritual fathers/mothers/friends for spiritual fulfillment and maturity in the same way that we need them for healthy physical growth? I think we are sometimes under the impression that God is all we need when it comes to our spiritual growth. But is this really the case? Or do we, perhaps, need the church community in the same way that a baby needs milk? Is it a matter of spiritual survival?

I won't bore you with my personal, spiritual sob stories....well, ok, maybe just one! During a period of my life I was isolated from serious and genuine accountability. This led to a serious fall into sexual sin. I lacked someone(s) in my life to regularly probe into my situation and clearly define the lines and boundaries - to directly state the rights and wrongs of my situation - someone(s) to look into my life and speak truth. Without it I died. I died in a very figurative sense, of course, but I think the damage was certainly as real and frightening as a baby deprived of nourishment. And I think I could relate many other similar experiences.

Do believers need other believers for the survival of their spiritual souls? Does life depend upon it? Is there really that much at stake???

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children...
1 Thessalonians 2:11

Monday, December 18, 2006

More on the internet....

The "Great Man" theory of history is usually attributed to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle, who wrote that "the history of the world is but the biography of great men." He believed that it is the few, the powerful and the famous who shape our collective destiny as a species. That theory took a serious beating this year...
Look at 2006 through a different lens and you'll see another story, one that isn't about conflict or great men. It's a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes...
The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.
And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television...
Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?
The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you...
Time article: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1569514,00.html?aid=434&from=o&to=http%3A//www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0%2C9171%2C1569514%2C00.html

These are a few clips from TIME's article on the person of the year. The person of the year is you - and me, I guess. I mean since it's all of us that includes me, right. I guess I didn't really have a speech prepared, but I'm pretty good on the spot:

"Well, er hum, thank you. I really appreciate this and I consider it a great honor to be even considered in the category of the caliber of men and women who have accepted this award. I mean, yea, seriously, it is a really cool thing. And, of course, I couldn't have done it without all of you. I mean, after all, we all kinda' won this together. So, I'd like to thank all of you who supported me and sacrificed to make this happened....Oh, yea, and I want to thank God and my mother and father.....Peace out!"

The media we breath

Americans spend more time watching TV, listening to the radio, surfing the Internet and reading newspapers than anything else except breathing.

In fact, media use has risen every year since the start of the decade, helped by faster and easier ways to get information and entertainment, according to statistics in a new government report.

Next year, Americans are projected to spend more than 9 1/2 hours a day with the media, though hours spent doing two things at once, such as watching TV and using the Internet, are counted twice in the report.

"There are more TVs than people and there's a TV, in many houses, in every room," said Patricia McDonough, senior vice president at Nielsen Media Research. "For teenagers, being on the Internet and watching TV at the same time are not mutually exclusive."

Americans spend an average of 4 1/2 hours a day watching television, far more time than they spend on any other medium. Next come the radio and the Internet. Reading newspapers is fourth, passed this year by Internet use.
Here's the link to this clip: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=2728161&page=1

What are the implications of a culture that spends as much time engaged in various media outlets as anything else? Is it necessarily a bad thing? In the above study they count double time if a person is involved in more than one media at a time - i.e. watching tv and on the internet. If this is the case, then I think that I might come somewhat close to the 9 1/2 hours per day amount. When you add up journal articles read, time on the internet, time watching television or movies, and radio listening (to say nothing of listening to music), then I have to admit that I am soaked in the media on a daily basis.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Vegas for Christmas

In about a week I'm heading to Vegas for Christmas! No real reason, except somewhat of a whim. I usually celebrate Christmas with my family in PA, but we are not celebrating until a little later - around New Year's Day. So, me and a buddy are going somewhere interesting where we have never been.

The plan: Take in the lights of the Vegas strip, and explore the Red Rock Canyon. What better way to contemplate the Incarnation as reported in John 1 than to observe the lights in the darkness? Also, I am an avid runner, so I hope to spend several days running through the trails at Red Rock, and I'd like to try my hand at rock climbing.

Anyone ever been to Vegas? Any tips for a newbie?


It's that time of year again! Charities and non-profit organizations are all bidding for your giving dollars. There will be mass mailings, phone calls, pledge drives, bells and buckets, and offering plates....Gadzooks that's a lot!

But most of us want to help the less fortunate, don't we??? The question is what and who to give our time, energy, and dollars to. I, for one, despise giving just to make myself feel good. I also despise guilt trips and organizations that use guilt as a motivation for giving. Usually these charities have a sort of tunnel vision: My charity is the mostest importantest in the whole wide world! And so if you fail to give to my charity, then you've failed the entire human race.

Ok, fine! I understand you care about your charity project. That's all good. But there are a lot of problems in the world. It's a dark place. We've got hunger, sickness and disease, poverty, abuse, aids and cancer, environmental issues, wars, criminal governments, natural disasters like crazy, broken homes, broken spirits, hate and violence, racism and bigotry, and on top of it all there is a general sense of malice towards one's neighbor.

It's amazing how the Christmas season brings to the forefront the best and worst of humanity. The light and the darkness. The world is a dark place, and each of us only has a little bit of light to make a difference. It is the holiday season that seems to bring out the desire to bring light to the darkness. We want the world to be better. Or at least to appear better for a period of time. "The holidays," it is said, "are no time for a family to go hungry." But somehow every other day of the year is ok???

Why is it that we want so badly for the Christmas time to be full of light and hope? Why is it that we want to see peace on earth and goodwill to men? What drives our culture to put their best foot forward at Christmas?


There is an interesting discussion getting started about apathy and our generation. I have added a few long winded comment to the discussion. Here is the link:

Is this generation apathetic towards Christianity or religion? If so, how does the church reach an apathetic generation? Or is the church itself apathetic??

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Is God logical?

After lunch today a friend handed me a 6 page theodicy that he had put together. What is a theodicy, you ask? It is, basically, a theory that deals with God and the problem of evil in the world. It asks and attempts to answer the age old question: If God is all-good and all-powerful why is there evil in the world?

But even before I got into his arguments I couldn't quite get past the second sentence:
It is important to have internal consistency amongst our beliefs - especially those concerning our Creator.

But this is an assumption, and I'm wondering how well grounded it is. On the face of it I suppose it is true in most cases, i.e. most of my life I go around trying to be logically consistent. I certainly don't want to be illogical or irrational! But why do I do this??? Do I have a reason for reason?

And what about the Creator God? Is he bound by our own "internal consistency"? What is internal consistency? By my guess it has something to do with logic and rationality. We use logic/rationality to measure whether various statements (like "God is good" and "God is all-powerful" and "evil exists") are consistent with themselves. We use logic and rationality all the time to help us through life. We don't really need to be taught logic - most people develop some form of rationality quite naturally. On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to have people teach us logic and to sharpen our reasoning through argument or debate.

So, because of our use of logic in so many areas of life we develop systems of logic. Online you can cross reference several philosophy sites to have a look at various developments in the field of logic:
You can scan through the various articles on logic at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html#l
Same thing at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://www.iep.utm.edu/l/
You can jump over to Wikipedia to get an overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logic

The interesting thing you will find if you are new to logic is the very diverse perspectives that philosophers have on just what logic is and what its place is. Same thing with rationality - a plurality of perspectives on what it is and what it means.

This will be a contested and debated point, but I would put forth that logic/rationality is a human construct. (I'm not a Kant scholar by any means, but I think my thoughts here would be close to what Kant calls a synthetic apriori judgment.) We need to use logic. We have to rely on rationality. We just do it - it's part of our world and how we live life, and it explains so much. But where do we get logic? And whence cometh rationality? The "Laws" of logic didn't drop from the heavens - they are debated. Exactly what constitutes a "law" and what it means for us is something that we construct. We can't really deny logic, but does that mean we can absolutely affirm it?

And that all brings us to God. Must God be "logically consistent"? Especially in a world where "logic" and "consistency" are debated and contested terms.Why must God be internally consistent to my mind? Some have denied their belief in God based on the fact that the idea of God and/or God's revelation is not "internally consistent" on their definitions. So, in essence, they have defined God out of existence!

But what if God is beyond logical constructs of our minds? What if God is not "rational" on our terms? Is this possible? Or even desirable?

Again, I'm not being anti-logical here. As I said, I love logic and I use it all the time. So, for me the question is not the value of logic, but simply the place of logical consistency when it comes to God and his actions. Has God ever made a point of telling us that he is logically consistent?? Or that he is rational? Or that he is even reasonable in all circumstances?

What are we searching for????

Most searched for word on the internet (search engines) for 2006:

Two other words at the top of the list:
"Pam Anderson"

I just heard it on the radio, so take it for what its worth...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Should women speak in church?

This continues on my blog sampling of journal articles after I binged on periodicals at the library this weekend.

This article was interesting: "The Social Matrix of Women's Speech at Corinth: The Context and Meaning of the Command to Silence in 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36" by Terence Paige (Houghton College) published in the Bulletin for Biblical Research 12.2 (2002) 217-242.

1 Corinthians 14:33-36 33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?

If you are like me then you have probably always viewed these verses a bit suspiciously - they just seem very odd! Well, Terrence Paige has a new proposal for these verses. Here is the abstract from the article:

A reexamination of Greek and Roman culture highlights women's positive role in religion, as Paul also grants, as well as the nuanced but guarded interactions between the sexes. Paul's injunction to women in 1 Cor 14:34-35 was meant to prevent casual interaction between married women and non-family men in the context of worship, not to prevent sacral speech. This behavior was seen as sexually aggressive, bringing shame on these women and the church in society's eyes. (217)

It is a good article, and I appreciated Paige's interaction with the culture to which Paul is directing his comments - particularly the Greek culture. Paige's project is to demonstrate that it would not be proper for women to be interacting/speaking in public because it was socially unacceptable in that day. He particularly focuses on married women, who were to be seen and not heard (and not even seen all that often) in the ancient Greek culture - and he also suggests that this is still the case in modern Greece. Says Paige:

To speak with a man was almost tantamount to making a sexual advance on him; it crossed the social boundary set up around modes and virtuous women, especially married women (227)

Paige cites Plutarch, second century AD:

Not only the virtuous woman's forearm should be withheld, but not even her speech should be public, and she ought to guard her voice from [being heard] by outsiders, regarding this with the same shame that she would if she were stripped naked before them, for her emotion, character, and disposition are seen by her talking. (228)

Paige applies his thoughts to the specific situation in Corinth:

One can see Paul's concern with behavior at the worship meetings in Corinth. Everyone in the neighborhood of the house that sponsored the church meeting knew that something was going on there...The behavior of the women in the assembly was being observed and noted, not only by their fellow believers, but by neighbors and all to whom their gosspi should come, including in some cases the non-Christian husbands of these women (cf. 1 Cor 7:13-14) (240)

What would the conclusion drawn by these nosey neighbors???

Conservative Mediterranean society would surely have labeled the behavior of these women "shameful," like that of an adulteress or a "loose" woman. Paul is concerned for the honor of the women, the women's families, the church meetings, and their host-patron (in whose house the assembly met), and the reputation of the gospel itself. Some gossip-provoking elements may have been unavoidable - such as the hours at which they met - but other elements of the meetings could be controlled so as to fit with societal norms for honorable behavior. (240)

Paige concludes:

Women's leadership is not the issue; rather, it is modesty and honorable behavior...Whatever the intentions of the Corinthian women may have been, Paul sees the effect as dangerous. They are violating the cultural boundaries between married men and women, and this is about to bring shame on them, on the church, and on the gospel. (241)

Good article. For sure.

One question that I have, however, is why does Paul direct women to talk with their husbands? If Paige's thesis is correct, then women's Bible studies would probably be one of the preferred outlets of discussion. Why doesn't Paul say something like, "It isn't proper for women to speak in church, so they really oughta get together and hash things out amongst themselves...oh, yea, and maybe run some things by their husbands every once in a while." Get the idea? If Paige's thesis is correct then why does Paul introduce the whole idea of submission? If the issue is simply one of the context, then why does Paul bring up the hubby?

Despite my questions regarding Paige's thesis, there is no doubt that this is a well argued and informative article. And I certainly hold that Paul's command about the "properness" of women speaking in the church at that time was a culturally directed command.

Jazz and the great divide of Christian thinkers

Here is a link to a clever little bit on Donald Miller and "Blue Like Jazz" by Mark Coppenger:

The reason I link to this is not because I have a strong opinion about Miller. I don't find him threatening, but I haven't really had too much exposure to him. I've read Blue Like Jazz and listened to Miller when he was in town a few months back.

What is interesting about the above link is this: The huge gap I see between the "modern" and the "postmodern" Christian thinker. I hate to use the labels "modern" and "postmodern" because they mean so many different things to so many different people.

I actually find myself somewhat sympathetic to Coppenger's points, although in several of them he obviously misses the point of what Miller is about. In doing so he misses the point about what many of us younger believers are trying to do in this generation. Coppenger complains that we are so casual about his generation's fight for inerrancy, but he fails to see that this isn't a battle that is really all that important, anymore because nobody in our generation (believer or non-believer) really cares anymore whether the Bible in its original autographs (which we do not have) was "without error" in what it asserts. It's just not a concern!

But back to my point, which is that there is a huge gap in understanding between Christian thinkers from this generation to the one before it. The link to the article reveals a lot of the suspicions.

Maybe we can put it this way: Coppenger and the older set look at jazz and see how it operates within structure. The younger, postmodern love jazz for its freedom and improv, and the ability to for jazz not to hold so tightly to a rigid structure.

Will we ever see eye to eye??? Will we ever realize that we are all listening to the same music??


John Coltrane improvising on "Afro Blue" - 1963

Monday, December 11, 2006


ipurchased an ipod
as well as the sport pack
the sport pack includes a chip that beams a signal
up to my ipod
to tell me how fast iam going

when ifirst got the sport pack
iread through the manual
the ipod sport pack isn't terribly complicated
but still it requires a bit of knowledge

so ihit the road and tested the gadget
it didn't work for me
and so ireturned to the manual for more instruction
and the second time around isaw more in the manual than ihad seen before

so what is the point?
after all, iwouldn't waste your time with nonesense
here it is:
our experiences inform our understanding of the text
experience and understanding go hand in hand

when ireturned to the manual after testing the gadget
ibetter understood what it was that the manual was saying
the manual was fresh
the manual seemed new, in a lot of ways

the same thing happens when iread the ancient Scriptures
experiences of life change us
and the Word is new when we return to it
why is it new?
because we have moved
because we have changed
life has transformed attitudes, perceptions, and outlooks
in the stream of life the Word finds new ways to communicate on different levels


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Unreality TV

I went over to the seminary library this weekend to look around at various publications for the possibility of submitting a journal article. This was supposed to be a quick trip - half hour to an hour.....three hours later I was copying like mad to get all of my copies made before the library closed. I came across so many cool articles that I just had to have them. So, I'll be posting some of my reactions to some of these cool articles in the next week or two, and you, my friend, will be on the cutting edge of what people are writing on!

The first article is called "Unreality TV: How the Ubiquitous Genre Actually Misrepresents Life" published in Christianity Today. Miller has a bit of a problem with reality tv:
Instead of showing us our truest selves, it plays to our worst impulses and misperceptions, making in the end, a spectacle of our inner lives. Like other forms of voyeurism, it actually diminishes our taste for reality.

There is a reality out there: grand, awful, mysterious, and threatening. The truth, though, is that we postmoderns usually want reality packaged for us. Keep it titillating. Keep it shallow. Keep it safe. But the God of life is neither titillating, nor shallow, nor safe..The more we evade him and a lively participation in his world, the less real we become.

I'm hoping that those of you who love reality tv can weigh in here. And, I guess, those of you who hate reality tv can throw your two cents it as well....But here is my thought: Doesn't everybody know by this point that reality tv isn't reality? In the beginning we lived under the illusion that we were witnessing "real live." MTV's "Real World," "Survivor" and other shows first crashed on to the scene and it seemed raw and realistic. It was almost as though we were witnessing real people living real lives and a camera just happened to be there.

But don't we know better, now??? Don't we all realize that so-called "reality" television is just planned and manipulated as regular television. This is so much the case that one of the most popular television shows these days, "The Office" - a show I thoroughly enjoy, by the way - is a scripted show that is scripted to appear to be a documentary, even though we all know it is not a documentary. It is a sitcom in the form of a documentary - a "docu-sitcom," if you will.

Furthermore, I do realize that tv "plays to our worst impulses," but that's the point of television. It captures the extremes. It has to have shock value in order to entertain. I'm not here to pretend that this does not adversely affect our society and culture because it does have a very negative impact. However, it is a reality of who we are as a culture, and I think most of us understand that by this point. From a theological perspective, the big/small screens of television and movies put the depravity of humanity on display. This is nothing unique to reality tv. It's been around for a while.

Lastly, I find it curious that Miller says that "we postmoderns usually want reality packaged for us. Keep it titillating. Keep it shallow. Keep it safe." I think I see where he is coming from, but being a child of the 90's I still want to "keep it real." I find myself pulled towards things that are "raw" and "natural." We want organic foods and all natural juices. We've long since lost the fascination with things that are "artificial" and "synthetic." And wasn't it that same "realness" that drew people to reality tv to begin with? I think there are a great many of us that get tired of things that are "packaged" - the fast food culture that we live in. And in this way I think Miller may be overgeneralizing a bit.

In any case, I appreciate Miller's last comment that God is not shallow or safe.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Open Theism in a nutshell

For the past decade or so there has been a raging controversy about a new theological position known as Open Theism. A couple of years back I did some research on Open Theism and put together a rather lengthy paper introducing and discussing some of the main issues: Open Theism - An Introductory Presentation. My research was based almost exclusively on the proponents of Open Theism, themselves. Due to the polarizing debates I thought it would be best to avoid some of the purely polemical and inflaming rhetoric coming from the opponents of Open Theism.

I would like to break down Open Theism and provide a more concise summary. This summary comes from my paper, which means that it is primarily based on what the Open Theists say, themselves. The main advocates are Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, and Greg Boyd.

It is important to understand that Open Theism, as a theology is rooted in the biblical text. It is, first and foremost, an attempt to take seriously the language of Scripture that describes God and the world as open, changing, and constantly in flux.

The issue of metaphor is important. There are a wide variety of metaphors in Scripture that describe God. Of these metaphors it is important to determine what is being said of God and what is not being said about God. The metaphors in question are those that describe God in some way as changing or being open. How do we take these open metaphors? Traditionally these metaphors have been marginalized as not depicting who God really is. The metaphors are given for our benefit or for various reasons, but the openness metaphors are not depicting who God actually is. The Open Theist tends to differ.

For Open Theists these metaphors are reality depicting. Pinnock talks about taking seriously the “dynamic and relational” metaphor. These are metaphors that depict a dynamic, relational, suffering, changing, and repenting God. Not only are these metaphors that should be taken seriously, but for an Open Theist these metaphors are “controlling metaphors.” A controlling metaphor is “able to bring coherence to a range of biblical thinking about God; they provide a hermeneutical key for interpreting the whole.” (The Suffering God, 11) So, not only are open metaphors taken seriously, but they are also crucial: We must interpret other passages of Scripture in light of the metaphors of openness.

On pages 8-13 of my Introductory Presentation I review Greg Boyd’s interaction with the themes and metaphors of openness found in Scripture. He lists several categories and Scriptural passages that suggest the openness of God and of our world: God regrets, God asks questions about the future, God confronts the unexpected, God is frustrated, God tests people to know their character, God speaks in terms of what may or may not be, and in Jeremiah 18 Boyd considers the flexible potter (for Boyd the flexible potter is one of the quintessential examples of openness). For more on this I will direct you to my paper and also to Boyd’s God of the Possible.

Going along with the Scriptural theme of the openness of God is a philosophical position of free will. More specifically, most Open Theists hold to some form of Libertarian free will or Incompatibilism. Incompatibilism holds that free will is incompatible with determinism. What is determinism? Determinism holds that one’s actions are determined by factors outside or exterior to one’s self. For example, a chain of causes and effects have been put in place so that we could not do other than we did. Or that we could not make a choice other than the choice that we made. Our actions and choices are predetermined. Incompatibilism allows for moments of decision that could, legitimately, go either way. That there are at least some choices of freedom that cannot be determined or predicted. That freedom just is the fact that a choice could go either way, and cannot be predetermined.

Aside from arguing from the biblical text Sanders uses three rather standard arguments for libertarian freewill. Briefly, they are as follows: Libertarian free will is necessary if we are to have genuine loving relationships, Libertarian free will is necessary if our thought is to be rational, Libertarian free will is necessary if we are to be held morally responsible for good/evil in a way that really makes a difference. Furthermore, the libertarian can maintain that God did not want Adam to sin but would not control Adam’s sin. And libertarian freedom must be presupposed in order to make sense of God’s grieving over sin and entering into genuine dialogue with us. You can reference these in more detail on pages 17-18 of my Introductory Presentation.

Open Theists have also called into question what it means that God is “perfect.” What is perfection? Is a being imperfect if they change? If they are open? If they are flexible? Is God imperfect if he is a part of time and space and allows himself to be influenced by it? Clark Pinnock states, “It is tempting to think of God abstractly as a perfect being and then smuggle in assumptions of what ‘perfect’ entails.” (Most Moved Mover, 65-66)

It is sometimes argued that Open Theists limit God’s knowledge or do not believe that God is omniscient (all knowing). But for Open Theists God is all knowing, but because the universe is open and not foreknown or predetermined even God cannot know what will happen in the future. This is a debatable issue, even within Open Theism because as soon as you posit that the future is unknown then it begs the question of how God will fulfill his promises for the future. Or how will God bring about ultimate justice? For the Open Theist these promises and future fulfillments will come about, but it is usually based on God’s superior power to conquer, rather than on God having knowledge of all the details of how things will work out. Because the universe is open and not closed/predetermined even God cannot see into the future. (For more a bit more of the details on the philosophy behind knowledge of the future see my Introductory Presentation, 18-21.)

Thus far we have looked at some of the biblical positions of Open Theists as well as their philosophical positions on certain issues. The final argument developed by Open Theists is an existential argument: Open Theism is presented as a more livable theology. Open Theists argue that often the traditional theological formulations of doctrine develop a tension between belief and lifestyle. For example, a Christian will believe that the future is closed and determined, and yet he or she will be expected to pray for a certain outcome to take place. This begs the question of why one should pray at all if the future is determined.

Open Theists also argue that a theology of openness better allows believers to live with the evil in the world. Traditional theologies have a difficult time excusing God of blame for the evil in the world. If God has predetermined all things, then God has predetermined evil. This is a difficult reality to live with. Open Theism holds that evil exists, not because God predetermined that it should exist, but because God gave humanity free will – a free will that could go either will and was completely undetermined – and that because of free choices evil came into being. As such, evil is the result of sinful choices.

And what about genuine relationships? It is argued by Open Theists that for a relationship to be real both parties must undergo change – they must be affected by each other. This is no different in the God-human relationship. Both the person and God are affected by their relationship. Furthermore, for this relationship to be authentic we must not be preprogrammed to love – love must be a free choice. We must be able to accept or reject our relationship with God and our decision in this matter cannot be predetermined.

Links of Interest:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Theism
Open Theism Information Site: http://www.opentheism.info/
Theopedia: http://www.theopedia.com/Open_theism

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Stuff and Treasures

So, from Fight Club we learned that "The things you own end up owning you." There is a remarkable parallel with Jesus' words: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We generally think that we invest our lives, time, energy, money, etc. in the things that are important to us - and, of course, that is true. We do buy things that are meaningful, spend time with people who are important in our lives, and invest our energy in careers, charities, etc. that seem worthwhile.

But this is not the lesson from Jesus or Fight Club. The things you own end up owning you. That is the reverse of how we normally view our investments. The point is that there is a sense of a lack of control. What we surround ourselves with - the stuff we own, the people we hang with, the jobs we work, etc. - begins to dominate our thoughts and attitudes and heart and mind. In Fight Club the object was to rebel against and destroy the consumer-driven culture that had tightened its grip on people's lives by sucking all of their investments into marketing schemes - to always be in search of the newest device, or that perfect table set, or the statement wardrobe. The heroes of Fight Club believed that such a culture had so engrossed people that it was only to completely rip away and destroy the system that there was any hope.

I see a somewhat similar line of thought in Jesus' words. Our treasure is that in which we have invested ourselves. These investments represent our priorities. But what we invest it will turn around and end up dominating us. As human beings we do not have the luxurey of being purely objective and picking out the things that are important to us. Those things we invest in end up turning around and locking us into a system of thoughts and actions and feelings. The things that we own end up owning us.

It's not so much that we invest our hearts into our treasures. It's that our treasures turn around and grab ahold of our hearts. We are desinged, by nature, to respond to our treasures. Our treasures own us.

Monday, December 04, 2006


The things you own end up owning you.

- Fight Club

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Putting on Miles

I found a great buy at Wal-mart today. I picked up some really early Miles when he played with Charlie Parker - 1947 studio recordings. Not to be confused with the 1958 release by the same name.

The CD was only $5 so I knew I couldn't go wrong, although I wasn't quite sure what it was. I'm very pleased.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Asa's feet

2 Chronicles 16:12 states:
In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians. (NIV)

Question: Why didn't Asa seek God? He was one of the few God-fearing kings that we read about in Chronicles/Kings. So, why not seek God for a personal problem? He had seen God work before? He had heard of God's mighty works for his people: parting of the sea, deliverance from enemies, manna from heaven, etc. Couldn't the God who parted the sea help him out with his feet?

A few verses before (verse 9) says:
For the eyes of the LORD range through out the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

It is always interesting how matter-of-factly these statements are made. If the strength of the Lord is such an available commodity, then why didn't Asa seek it to help him out with his foot issues?

What is it in a person that causes them to stretch out to God for help? Conversely, what is it in a person that causes them to not reach out for aid in times of trouble, and to seek a physical/material solution - something more tangible?