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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Influence, Approval, and Sarcasm

I thought this video from The Onion on Least Influential Americans was interesting, because they took a shot at Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Ft. Wayne, by the way, is a charming little city, and not in the least deserving of being home to the Least Influential American!

Time Releases Annual List Of Least Influential Americans

Also, a few other satirical vids:

In The Know: Kim Jong-Il's Approval Rating Plummets to 120%

Report: 70 Percent Of All Praise Sarcastic

Monday, July 30, 2007

Trunk Monkey

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bix 7

My first running of the Bix 7. It was elbow-to-elbow traffic for the first 4 (of 7) miles - very congested. At one point there was even a couple of morons who tried to pass directly through a group of racers. Yours Truly ran into one of the idiots. Plowing people over made me feel like a running back for the Fightin' Irish. (By the way, when does football season arrive??? Aaaaarrrrggghhhh!)

I was happy with my effort of 58:25. It is a hilly course, and unfortunately I started near the back, so it was a very uneven race for me. (Next year I shall be closer - this I vow!) For my age group (25-29, I believe) I finished 332 of 845, and overall I finished 2,278 out of something like eleven thousand racers.

Here is a post-race picture of my boyish figure:

Here is my back where you can see my tatoo....actually, what happened is that I placed a newspaper behind my back on the post-race drive back to the motel so as not to funktify the interior upholstery of my uncle's car. It left a temporary tat on my back with an advertisement for "Girls Night Out" at the Kansas City Royals ballpark.

Next up on the race schedule:
Crim in Flint, MI on August 25.
Lake City Half Marathon in Warsaw, IN on Sept. 15.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Still furiously blogging in a Starbucks in Davenport....

The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that's the book for me!

Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.

I was eavesdropping on some relatives over lunch conversating on the Bible. It seems my sis was taking a class on the Bible with a Prof. whose premise was something of the following: The Bible was written by humans, humans are fallible, ergo the Bible is fallible.

That's not the interesting part. (It is, after all, the classic Liberal position, and goes back even farther than the 20th century.) What was interesting was that the general consensus of this conversating was that philosophical speculation was enjoyable and profitable, however, there are certain areas closed to speculation, i.e. speculation on to the nature of Scripture.

Question/s: What does the Bible itself say about its own nature? And is it possible that much of our untouchable dogma regarding the nature of Scripture is artificial and is not, after all, organically grown from the soil of the Bible?

If one were to organically produce a doctrine about Scripture based on what Scripture, itself, says, what might one say? What might one not say?

Mt. Rushmore

All states flags are displayed at Mt. Rushmore, along with a dedication plate.

Below's a pic of George W...he, he, the first one....It looks like one of those rip-away affects, but this is the actual picture taken through two rocks. I was close to the faces and took a click of George through an opening in between some rock. I thought it was a cool effect.

Below is Gutzon Borglum, the genius behind Mt. Rushmore:

Some of the high-tech equipment used to carve out the Rusmore monument:

Internet connections have been few and far between on my mini-sabbatical to the remote midwest. Currently I am furiously blogging away on a wireless connection at Starbucks here in Davenport - and this despite the fact that the good folk at Starbucks claim that they have no wireless internet connection. This is, of course, better than the McDonald's and Burger King in Huron who claimed that they had a wireless connection that was non-connectable.

Fast thoughts on Rushmore:
- Struck by irony as I viewed the faces with the other tourists.
- Felt very patriotic and nationalistic.
- Mt. Rushmore is an incredible, massive work of art.
- Borglum, its creator (see above), was a motivated, patriotic, energetic genius. (Like Hesiak!)
- Irony: Major national monument carved into sacred Indian grounds stolen away from the Indians by the US (pale face).
- Perhaps this irony and many like it are at the heart of our American heritage.
- US = A nation whose ideals are sound and just and good.
- US = Rarely fully lives up to said ideals.
- US = Often forced into pragmatic (see "lesser of two evils") means to accomplish just/good ends.
- Melting pot = a collage of ideals.
- The ultimate product is a strange brew, indeed.
- Prez. faces carved into stolen Indian land is as ironic as the fact that "French Fries" are an American food.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Keep on Truckin'

So, I emerged from the Black Hills, and soon after I'm on the road for the Bix 7 race. Somewhere on I-29 in either South Dakota or Iowa I opened my handy notebook, which contained about 8 or 9 Post-It notes full of reminders and notes for my latest essay as well as a couple of keen ideas for blogging subjects - with the windows being down (to compensate for the a/c that went out) all of those handy reminders are now floating around the fields of South Dakota (or Iowa). (So, if you are a South Dakota/Iowa farmer and have retrieved those post-it notes please call 574-527-3136 and you will be rewarded with a handsome ransom!!)

In any case, I have some great photos of the Black Hills to post when I get more time. Right now here is one for road:

All, right, all right, fine....I'll upload another one....but after this it's off to bed - after all, I've got a race to run tomorrow....This one is the view from the highest point overlooking the Black Elk Wilderness in the Black Hills:

My goodness, you just won't quit, will you???? Fine, one more pic - but that's it!

Here is picturesque Mount Rushmore. (It is quite difficult to take a bad picture in this area!)

Monday, July 23, 2007


"Now here"? Or "nowhere"?

I am now here in South Dakota (quite in the middle of the state), and that basically puts me in the middle of nowhere.

Heading into the Black Hills tomorrow for a three day backpacking trip. (Bringing Gadamer, Kierkegaard, and Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels.)

See you later.

(For return times please consult your Mystic Seer.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Mystic Seer

"Nick of Time," Episode #43 of The Twilight Zone, features a captivating performance by a young William Shatner exploring the psychology of superstition. At the local diner of a strange, small town in the state of Ohio they find a Mystic Seer who will answer any "yes" or "no" question put to it for the small cost of one penny.

Rod Serling sets the scene with a sophisticated yet eerie serenade:
"The hand belongs to Mr. Don S. Carter, male member of a honeymoon team on route across the Ohio countryside to New York City. In one moment, they will be subjected to a gift most humans never receive in a lifetime. For one penny, they will be able to look into the future. The time is now, the place is a little diner in Ridgeview, Ohio, and what this young couple doesn't realize is that this town happens to lie on the outskirts of the Twilight Zone."

Don asks the mystic seer if he is going to get a promotion at work. The card says that it has been decided in his favor. When Don calls the office, he discovers that the mystic seer was right. Because of this initial success, Don asks the mystic seer even more questions.

Pat realizes that Don is taking the mystic seer too seriously as Don keeps asking it questions. Due to the seer's answers, Don doesn't feel it is safe to leave the diner until after 3:00 p.m. Pat gets him to leave before then, but just after 3:00 p.m. they are almost struck by a car while crossing the street. After they both calm down, Don leads Pat back to the cafe. However, another couple is sitting at their booth, so Don and Pat must wait at the front counter.

Pat wants proof that the mystic seer is legitimate, because she points out that it was Don who had brought up the time of 3:00 p.m. After reclaiming their booth, Don immediately asks the mystic seer more questions. One of the things he wants to know is whether their car will be fixed by the end of the day. The mystic seer says the car has been repaired, and a few moments later the mechanic arrives with that very news.

Pat is disgusted to see Don rely upon the mystic seer so heavily. The breaking point happens when Don asks the mystic seer where they're going to live in the future.

Pat tries to break the spell the mystic seer has over Don by pointing out that he's letting the seer run his life. After a persuasive speech from Pat, Don realizes how foolish he has been acting. He apologized to Pat and then announces directly to the mystic seer that they're leaving to go do what they please.

They are free of the spell! But the twist in this intriguing little plot comes after Don and Pat leave the cafe and another couple immediately enters. Tense and anxious, they deposit their coins and tentatively ask the Mystic Seer if it is ok to ask questions today. They receive a card that gives them an affirmative answer, to which they breathe a sigh of relief. They then proceed to ask questions related to when they can leave the town, etc. as the camera pans out and we all leave The Twilight Zone.

Serling's epilogue reads as follows:
"Counterbalance in the little town of Ridgeview, Ohio. Two people permanently enslaved by the tyranny of fear and superstition, facing the future with a kind of helpless dread. Two others facing the future with confidence, having escaped one of the darker places of the Twilight Zone"

The parallels as well as ramifications for religious belief are plentiful. Is belief in "God" really no more than a grand Mystic Seer? The power of the symbolism in this Twilight Zone episode resides in the trivial and trite trinket that is being revered as a source of wisdom and guidance - a prophetic voice. It is little more than a cheap napkin holder that dispenses cards with random answers to "yes/no" questions.

The power of the Mystic Seer is not in its nature or composition, but it in the psychological investment that gives it currency. Those who believe are held captive by their own belief. This is superstition.

Over and above the Mystic Seer stands the rational soul - reason piercing the darkness of silly, unfounded fear. Reason does not allow its mind to be held hostage by superstition and lives its life on its own steam: Fearlessly determining its own destiny based solely upon its own volition.

Don and Pat found themselves somewhere in the middle. They were taken in by superstition, but they broke the spell before they allowed their destinies to be governed by The Mystic Seer.

Of course, the assumption in all this is that The Mystic Seer is nothing but a napkin holder. That there really is no connection between the cards it dispenses and the future destiny of life. And this is the crux of the issue. It is also the recurring theme in religion: Is there a reality behind "God"?

Paul makes an interesting statement in one of his early letters:
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. [N]

What did we feel for the couple who entered the cafe after Don and Pat? Who were held hostage by The Mystic Seer?


The last couple was engaged by The Mystic Seer. Their lives revolved around the Seer. The Seer captivated their every move. And we pitied them because it was only a napkin holder.

I wonder if the vast majority of American Christians can echo Paul's words: If only for this life I have hope in Christ, I am to be pitied more than all men.

In other words, if there is no reality that is giving currency to the Christian belief then how pitied are we? Or do most of us live lives that are virtually indistinguishable from the other American Dreamers?

Ah, the questions raised by The Mystic Seer! Drop a penny and ask him....if you dare!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Coke Side of Life

"You give a little love and it all comes back to you...
You're gonna' be remembered for the things that you say and do..."

For those of you interested, Shannon McGlothin helped create this commercial. His parents live in Winona Lake, IN and own/operate Grace Janitorial. It first ran during last year's Super Bowl

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Meaningful Life

One of the differences that separates humanity as unique, as far as I see it, is our ability to transcend our thinking from the activities of living and ask whether or not our life as a whole is meaningful. We can do things and perform tasks and complete activities, but many of us often reflect on whether or not our life was a meaningful one. We ask ourselves questions of significance. And even if these are not explicitely stated they are in many cases deeply felt. Parents try to pass on to their children all of the meaningful things they wished they had done and hope that their kids have more meaningful lives...

The problem is that meaning and significance is relative to the community and to the individual. If you were born in ancient Sparta, for example, you would find significance in honoring your city-state, and dying on the battlefield would be a very meaningful death. Same thing with the Samurii. In The Last Samurii there is a strong motif of dying "a good death." Contrast this with a northeastern, liberal dinner party where dying in war would probably be about the worst possible way to go!

So, in terms of what is meaningful and living a significant life, we must reference our context. We take our que's from our families and clans and from our peers and our neighborhoods and our nations. This is the way we are made. We learn from others as the desire for meaning wells up within us and as we comtemplate and long to do something significant. In this way meaningfulness is taught.

But is there something greater? Is there something universal? Is there "one thing" that defines the meaningful life? Is there a commonality that transcends culture and binds together all meaningful ventures. This seems to be the unstated question that underlines all of Qohelet's pursuits. So, I take this question to you, the people: Is there an ultimate meaning in life?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I remember a while back emailing Doyle about an intriguing (I called it a "Baudrillard-type") experiment:

Start an anonymous blog and write daily entries reflecting, as close as possible, the life of a celebrity who is living life and relaying their experiences to the mass audiance. But keep it up regularly to very closely mirror the actual life of the celebrity and, via the imagination, fill in the details closely proximating said celebrities life.

I wonder if this is not already being done. It would be interesting b/c if someone followed, with close attention to detail, a celebrities life over the course of a long period of time, then such a person could probably reach a point where they the blog very closely reflected the actual thoughts/actions of the celebrity on a given day.

But think about it....if you could get to that point then when a major event (positive or negative) happened, news outlets may actually cite your blog as a reflection of what the celebrity is actually thinking/feeling about that major event. What is Tom Cruise thinking when Kattie goes back to Ohio with his baby? How is he responding to the airing of the South Park "Come out of the closet, Tom" episode? All this would be captured by the blogger, who by this time has become a representative of the celebrity - probably a better rep than the celebrity themselves...or at least more interesting!

Well, not only are there such a thing as fake celebrity blogs, but there are actually fake celebrity blogs that are not fake. They are called Flogs. Here's the wikipedia explanation:

A fake blog (sometimes shortened to flog or referred to as a flack blog) is a marketing tool designed by a professional advertisement company to promote a product in a fashion one might find on a fan site or in regular blog entries. The purpose of such "flogs" is to inspire viral marketing or create an internet meme which generates traffic and interest in a product disproportionate to the interest a company could generate using the same budget on traditional means of advertising, much the same as astroturfing (a "fake grassroots" campaign).

Flogs pretend to be one or more people writing a blog out of pure enjoyment or enlightened self-interest, when in reality the whole blog is a carefully crafted piece of advertising. The person may be real, but usually isn't.

Flog is often applied to corporate blogs or those written by politicians, where the public relations department or aides do the blogging. Generally, a website pretending to be a blog but actually the creation of public relations firms, the mainstream media, or professional political operatives.

In other words, a flog is something of a copy of a copy. An impersonator who is impersonating an impersonator.

By the way, here is an attempt at that Tom Cruise blog that I suggested:
The blog has a Disclaimer that clearly states it is a fake. However, if there are now fake blogs run by the real person/corporation, then such Disclaimers become virtually meaningless.

My suggestion: Embrace the artificial! This is an incredible opportunity for creativity. The above Tom Cruise blog is good, but a little bit soo spoofy. The challenge is to create blogs that so closely mirror the lives/thinking/feeling of the "real" celebrity that the blog actually becomes a synthetic spokesperson. Honestly, if it were done well enough and it was kept up to date you would find yourself with invitations to television news shows, interviews with celebrity gossip columnists, and even opportunities to write books. Sure, you might wind up with legal problems, but remember: No publicity is bad publicity. If you spin it right the legal wranglings would only serve to make you more popular.

Get fame by imitating fame. Get fame by imitating an imitation of fame. This is the new "trickle-down-blogonomics" of fame.

Ok. Well, I'm off to start a few fake blogs on the Theos Project.

Stay beautiful.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Biblical Apologetics

In a recent essay (hithertofore unposted/unpublished) that I have been working on I explore the issue of how Scripture is meaningful/significant. I take pains to establish the fact that meaning is relative to the person or to the community. That is, something is significant/meaningful to each of us in different ways.

This idea applies to the theological doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture. That is, the Scripture will seem meaningful to some and not to others. So, if meaning is relative to the individual/community, then I ask the question of whether there is any "inherent" meaning in the text of Scripture. Further, if meaning is relative then what gives a believer the audacity to suggest that the Scripture should be meaningful to others? This is a fair question/objection. I respond by talking about the "ought-ness" of meaning. The sense that if we find something meaningful/significant we typically think that it ought to be meaningful/significant to others. For example, if you read a good book or see a good film then we usually think that others ought to think the same. As such, just because meaning is relative does not, in and of itself, exclude us appealing to others that they should find meaning in something.

The below quotation from my essay comes after discussing the above points. The second paragraph is the point that I think is interesting.

The ought-ness of meaning also extends out of the Scripture’s appeal to the shared existential and spiritual situations of humankind. The ability for the text to resonate within so many diverse contexts is similar to the ability of a film to reach across cultures and speak to the commonality of human experience. The ought-ness in film proceeds from the unique and distinguishing character of the film, itself. The same is true of the text, and this leads us back into Calvin’s analogy of the “sweet” taste of Scripture. There is a similar sensual appeal that seems to transcend diverse contexts to speak to a common spiritual and existential dimension. It does not, of course, follow that all will find the text meaningful or significant, nor does it follow that all will find the text meaningful/significant in the same way or to the same degree. In our examination of meaning we have found that the meaningfulness of Scripture occurs at the intersection of text, reader, and Spirit at specific moments in time. But we have been exploring the ought-ness of meaning, which occurs when we experience something deeply meaningful that feels so deep and so basic that it seems to carry with it a meaningful and significant message for all of humankind. There is a sense that others might also be profoundly affected by the text. It is this sense that I call the feeling of ought-ness.

A critical apologetic and philosophical note along these lines is that it may be misguided to attempt to establish the truth of Scripture prior to a person engaging the text, itself. To attempt to establish the priority of the text at the outset could be a potentially frustrating endeavor. Analogously, it would seem backward and awkward to persuade an individual that a film is meaningful prior to viewing the film! This is simply not how we go about this sort of thing. We may share our excitement and attempt to convey a sense of the significance we have derived from a film, but ultimately our call is, “Give the film a viewing”! Similarly, when presenting the Scripture in the public square the church’s call is to give the text a reading; that the individual would open themselves to the possibility of a meaningful and significant engagement with the text. It is in this sense, then, that we can do justice to Calvin’s analogy and the examination of meaning as we have explored it in this essay.

Traditionally, apologetics has sought to establish the meaningfulness of the Scripture at the outset. In other words, there were logical and philosophical reasons for considering the Scripture as "true" or as the "Word of God." We had to have a reason considering the biblical text as meaningful. In this sense, I think we extracted the text from the stream of life and abstracted it away from its original and primary function: To guide humanity through life and to ultimately guide them to a dynamic Encounter with their Creator.

Here are a few examples of biblical apologetics in action:
Is the Bible from God?
How do you know the Bible is true?
The Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority of the Bible

“You Can’t Trust the Gospels. They’re Unreliable.” by Paul Copan
Here is an interesting quote from this article that kind of illustrates my above point: "The Christian has no way to refute skepticism about the unique claims and deeds of the historical Jesus without first establishing that the texts that record his claims are generally reliable. If the Gospels are fictitious, then a defense of Jesus’ self-understanding and unique role in salvation will also come under fire. So what follows are a few points to keep in mind when discussing the Bible’s historical reliability."

My thought is that perhaps we need to guide the non-believer to the text and suggest that it may be meaningful for them. In some sense it makes the Word prove itself as significant/meaningful in each and every life-situation. I think this is the direction that Apologetics is moving. In general, I think that Apologetics is dying out. If it is going to be revived it must undergo complete reconstructive surgery.