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.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Kids of Haiti

My friend, Sara, went to Haiti this summer to help with summer camps. (You can read some about her trip on her blog.)

Here are some videos of the kids she worked with. They wrote the following rap themselves over the course of the summer camp and are here performing it.

God and Other Minds - Alvin Plantinga

A review of God and Other Minds: A Study of the Rational Justification of Belief in God (1967)
Cornell University Press
by Alvin Plantinga

In this early work by Alvin Plantinga the first two parts deal with arguments for and against Christianity. Though a Theist and a Christian, Plantinga concludes that the arguments for God's existence are unsuccessful. After reviewing the atheological arguments against Christianity, Plantinga concludes:
"These atheological arguments are as unsuccessful as the arguments from natural theology we considered in Part I; natural atheology seems no better than natural theology as an answer to the question, 'Are religious beliefs rationally justified?'" (183) Part Three attempts "a different approach." (183)

Plantinga beings the third part by saying,
"It may be said, with the existence of God: the theist must be able to answer the question 'How do you know or why do you believe?' if his belief is to be rational; or at any rate there must be a good answer to this question. He needs evidence of some sort or other; he needs some reason for believing." (187)

Is belief in God "rational"? What are the "reasons" for believing in God? These have been questions of much historical debate, and at this point in Plantinga's book it is of considerable interest in light of the fact that he has rejected all arguments put forward thus far forward thus far. But rather than simply presenting another argument for the existence of God, Plantinga next makes a very interesting move:

"Obviously this raises many question. What is evidence? What relation holds between a person and a proposition when the person has evidence for the proposition? Must a rational person have evidence or reasons for all of his beliefs? Presumably not." (187-88)

So, Plantinga's question goes deeper: What is evidence? And must the rational person have evidence for all beliefs. Plantinga somewhat casually suggests, "presumably not," which will come as quite a startling conclusion for those coming out of Modernity and the various philosophical systems that are so rooted in the epistemologies of Classical Foundationalism.

Plantinga continues, "But then what properties must a belief have for a person to be justified in accepting it without evidence? Is a person justified in believing a proposition only if it can be inferred inductively or deductively from (roughly) incorrigible sensory beliefs? Or propositions that are obvious to common sense and accepted by everyone?" (188) These questions await further development by Plantinga in his future works. (See below) We leave these for now and proceed toward Plantinga's conclusion.

The primary point of Plantinga's work is to suggest that the belief in God is like the belief in other minds:
"There may be other reasons for supposing that although rational belief in other minds does not require an answer to the epistemological question, rational belief in the existence of God does. But it is certainly hard to see what these reasons might be. Hence my tentative conclusion: if my belief in other minds is rational, so is my belief in God. But obviously the former is rational; so, therefore, is the latter."

The conclusion is worded in such a way ("my tentative conclusion") that seems rather disappointing at first, or perhaps even trivial and irrelevant. But two things are important to bear in mind. The first is the historical perspective. In his 1970 review of God and Other Minds Michael A. Slote said, "This book is one of the most important to have appeared in this century on the philosophy of religion." (The Journal of Philosophy 67 (1970): 39-45) Over the course of his career, Plantinga's work within the Analytical field of philosophy has helped contribute to vigorous debate in the belief in God and the place of evidence within that debate.

Secondly, it is important to understand the scope of the work and how it shifts the burden of proof. There is something of a paradigm shift that must occur by those who demand evidence for belief in God and yet take the existence of other minds for granted. There is a shift of the burden of proof from the assumption that the Theist must provide evidence for God's existence to now questioning whether this assumption is valid.

Must the Theist provide evidence? If so, then what about the existence of other minds? This is something we seem to take for granted, while at the same time demanding proof of the existence of God.

The purpose of this review, then, is primarily to highlight Plantinga's conclusion. In his 1990 Preface to the reissue of the book, Plantinga restates his conclusion:
"'If my belief in other minds is rational, so is my belief in God. But obviously the former is rationa; so, therefore, is the latter.' As I now see (with the acuity of hindsight), my chief aim was to make a suitable reply to the evidentialist objection to theistic belief: the objection that theistic belief is irrational or unreasonable or intellectually second- or third-rate because there is insufficient evidence for it. More exactly (and relying even more heavily on hindsight) my aim was to reply to that objection taken in the context or from the perspective of classical (Cartesian and Lockean) foundationalism. The main argument of the book is really an argument against that objection, so taken." (xi)

Again, Plantinga is boldly suggesting a shift of the burden of proof. Why do we believe in the existence of other minds. It seems to be something that we all take for granted. Are we thus irrational??? Or unreasonable??? Surely not, one would think. (One would hope!) And yet, if we do not need evidence for the existence of other minds, what does that suggest about our evidence for the belief in God? Is it possible that Modernity/Enlightenment epistemology is so deeply rooted in our thinking that we do not even have a paradigm for looking at the question of God's existence as one that does not require evidence or rational proof?

As I close the review I return to Plantinga's 1990 preface: "What I argued, in essence, is that from this point of view belief in other minds and belief in God are on an epistemological pare. In neither case are there good arguments of the sort required; hence if the absence of such arguments in the theistic case demonstrates irrationality, the same goes for belief in other minds." (xi-xii)

This book finds itself a bit bogged down in the mire of Analytical argumentation. In my opinion this is a weakness, because those unfamiliar with the Analytic tradition will find many parts to be a bit convoluted. Yet the basic points made and the conclusions drawn are historically important in the history of philosophy and also of ongoing importance to the discussion of the existence of God.

Notes and References:
The above review is of a very early work by Plantinga, and merely represents a few early (albeit important) questions. To understand Plantinga's thoroughgoing epistemology, see the Warrant trilogy:
Warrant: The Current Debate (1993)
Warrant and Proper Function (1993)
Warranted Christian Belief (2000)
The first two works are epistemological in the Analyitc tradition, while the third (and perhaps most accessible) deals specifically with Theism and Christian belief.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pillow talk

After being asleep for about two hours last night I woke up knowing that I needed to get rid of my pillow. For some reason I could no longer use it. A few hours later I awoke and realized I had no pillow and suddenly felt conflicted. On the one hand, I knew that I had a very good reason for discarding the pillow (bugs or poison or some such critical issue), yet on the other hand I could not remember why. I had no desire to sleep without a pillow, nor did I want to go hunting for a replacement. Soooooo......I just put my pillow back in to service.

Do you have any ideas of deeper meanings behind this episode last night? Any hidden truths that can be brought to bear upon me or my personality? Any interpretations that may aid my self-realization?!?!

Also, just like in Daniel chapter 2, I wonder if you could not only interpret the events, but also tell me what happened. That is, why I did I originally discard my pillow. I simply cannot recall. And yet I would have never gotten rid of my pillow (because I very much love my pillow, it being the perfect size and all) if I hadn't had a darned good reason.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The altered state of mind

Daniel 7 and 8 records several visions that Daniel received. At the end of chapter 8 we read: I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days. Then I got up and went about the king's business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. (8:27)

In Chapter 9 Daniel reads Jeremiah and confesses the sins of the nation to the LORD. Gabriel then comes to give Daniel insight.

Then this from chapter 10. Notice the physical/emotional/psychological state of Daniel (in bold):
At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. 4 On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, 5 I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. 6 His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. 7 I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. 8 So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. 9 Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. 10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, "Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you." And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

This post continues my exploration of the mystical side of the faith, and here is my question: Could Daniel have received the visions of chapter 10 if he had not been in an altered physical/psychological state? It is clear that he did not eat for two weeks and did not use "lotions." Basically, he went organic and drained his body of food. When the "man dressed in linen" came, Daniel was the only one who was able to see the vision. His companions had a feeling of terror, such that they split the scene, leaving Daniel alone to witness the vision.

Are there certain mystical/spiritual experiences that we cannot receive if we are not in a correct physical/psychological state of mind?

Many Christians in the west have been quite bashful when it comes to mystic experiences, because spiritual experiences can be easily written off to an altered state of mind. For example, what's the difference between Daniel's vision and a hippie who dropped some groovy acid 35 years ago?

I would not say that all mind-altering experiences are spiritual, nor would I suggest that one has encountered God just because they had a groovy trip. But I do find in Scripture a theme of people preparing themselves to receive spiritual experiences by altering their state of mind. This is particularly the case by the means of fasting and prayer. When one fasts and prays it alters one's psychological state. When this is combined with a genuine seeking of the face of God then it happens (from time to time) that God reveals himself in the form of a vision or some other similar experience. Consider, for example, that Jesus fasted 40 days (quite a long time!) before facing his wilderness temptations (Matthew 4). In Acts (13:2) we find that the church received a revelation to send out Paul and Barnabas while praying and fasting. The implication of chapter 13 seems to me to be that praying and fasting was a regular part of what the church did at that time.

Admittedly, one would be foolish to assert that fasting/prayer is something of a formula by which one could conjure up God at will. However, I do believe that in certain circumstances, particularly of extreme need for God, a certain receptiveness may be required. Prayer, fasting, and meditation demonstrate a certain openness, desire, and expectation that God will speak and that God will meet with us. I suggest that for all of the abuses of spiritual experience, it is nonetheless still real that God meets those who wait expectantly, and putting one's self in a physical/psychological state of receptiveness can be a necessary part of being receptive.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Freedom - Discussion Link

I left a quick post on "freedom" over at a sister blog, The Discussion Link, which is a blog related to my local church. This goes along with some of the recent discussion here as well as over at Ktismatics on the issue of desire and how it relates with Law. Specifically, the question is whether or not Paul (in his letter to the Galatians) is simply replacing one Law with another law. Yet in 5:1 he talks about "freedom." Is this uninhibited freedom? Radical freedom? Dangerous freedom? I think so.
Here is the link if you want to weigh-in: Freedom

Friday, September 21, 2007

Shop Victoriously!

I love Ebay's newest slogan: Shop Victoriously!

Ebay is said to be Capitalism at its finest. Buyers pay for a product based on what it is worth. What is the worth of a product? Well, the consumer decides. It is supply and demand at its finest.

But notice that when Capitalism is extrapolated (as in the case with Ebay) the essence is competition. The marketplace is a battle field. This is war. The competition is on, and the good shopper is the "victorious" shopper. But every winner has at least one loser. Ultimately, then, it sets us against each other in a marketplace of consumption.

Interesting, though, that when it comes time to market itself the slogan "Shop Victoriously!" conjures up the image and perception that I will never lose. The reality, of course, is that someone must lose. Many bidders bid, and only one gains the coveted prize. But what if there is only one bidder? Surely then no one loses??? Ah, but then the seller loses, because he must undersell his product beneath market value.

So, we, the American faithful march on: Shop victoriously, America! And beat the living daylights out of anyone that stands in your way!

Our Generation

I was watching a series on the History Channel called Our Generation. It is a fluffy series documenting the highlights of the Baby Boomer generation. The topic at hand today is the automobile.

The show opens: Cars tell where the Boomers have been and where they are going. Cars define the Boomer generation.

As I said, the documentary is something of a fluff-u-mentary, glorifying the lives and times of the Boomers. But the fact that cars define this generation is probably more-or-less accurate, with the exception of the counter culture, of course.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
- Joni Mitchell "Big Yellow Taxi"

"Living in Los Angeles, smog-choked L.A. is bad enough but the last straw came when I visited Hawaii for the first time. It was night time when we got there, so I didn't get my first view of the scenery until I got up the next morning. The hotel room was quite high up so in the distance I could see the blue Pacific Ocean. I walked over to the balcony and there was the picture book scenery, palm tree swaying in the breeze and all. Then I looked down and there was this ugly concrete car park in the hotel grounds. I thought "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot" and that's how the song "Big Yellow Taxi" was born." (Joni Mitchell)

I took a brief interlude to mention Joni Mitchell, but this brings us to the paving of America, and hence the show continues: The highway, itself, is a Baby Boomer, born after WWII in the 1950's. The highway shaped cities and neighborhoods - it moved people out of cities and into the suburbs.

So, suburbia is born. This shapes our lives. Commute into work. Commute back home. The car takes us away from the close-knit neighborhood. No longer do we share life together with neighbors, family, and friends. Rather, it is now time for urban sprawl. Good fences make good neighbors, I was once told. Suburbia is nicer. More comfortable. Safer.

The show continues: The mini-van was designed to help the Boomers cart around their kids: Tailored to their needs, at the moment.

The show continues: The narrator states that the Boomers are a Peter Pan generation - they want to maintain their connection with their youth.

This takes us to the phenomenon of the Car Show. People now dedicate their lives to cars that they don't even drive. They just take them to the show, and maybe ride them around the block a few times. So, the car was originally built for performance and for function, and yet the car no longer performs. Now it is an item to be adored and preserved. It is a sacred relic we might say. It is now the fountain of youth. By preserving the car the Boomer is trying to preserve their own youth. Again, this is the Peter Pan syndrome: Youth is worshiped. Age is abhorred. The young have sensuality, vitality and value.

The show features dialogue with a reconstructionist of cars. The point, says the narrator, is to "reconnect people to their past."

advertising has us chasing cars and clothes
working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need
we're the middle children of history
no purpose or place
we have no great war no great depression
our great war is a spiritual war
our great depression is our lives

- Tyler Durden

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I am listening to Minnie Driver's "Beloved" song. Question: Who told Minnie Driver she could sing?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In the beginning

bere'shith bara' E'lohim hashshamayim ve'et ha'arets

I shamelessly steal the concept of "First Lines" from my bbff (best blogging friend forever) John Doyle, wherein one analyzes the first lines of profound literary works.

Is there a more profound first line than that found in Scripture? The first lines of Genesis?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

I say "profound" in the sense that few first lines have stirred such zeal, passion, and controversy. In America we have had great battles in our educational systems of what it means that God created - or even whether God needed to create.

That God "created" raises the what and how questions: What did God created and how did he do it? Did God create a finished product (chicken) or did he set in motion the forces of the earth (egg)? Did God create the world, or just snap his fingers ala the big bang?

And so we dance.

What is the relationship between faith and science? Do we believe the Good Book or the godless scientist? And who will teach our children? Who will influence their young minds??? Young earth, old earth, big bang, Evolutionist, Creationist.....

Yes, and so we dance....

God got the ball rolling. That much is clear from our first line. All things start with God as author. The text introduces us to the main player, the Cosmic Father Figure. The one, who, for better or worse, we must all reckon with in some way. God says, "Let there be" and there is. Now let's see where this thing goes.

So, God creates a text - or a script. But this is a living script. We see it played out. The Calvinists tell us that the script is already written. Is it? Others tell us that the script is unwritten, and as we act we write our own script. Mr. Rose from The Cider House Rules turns to Homer and says, gruffly, "We live here. We write our own rules."

But we put this issue aside and leave it to the theologians and we move along to the more pressing issue. For the more important issue, I believe, is that of interpretation. How do we interpret the script? Once an author creates a text s/he must release it and set it free for better or worse into the world of interpreters. Some will "get it" and others will not. And yet others might "get it" even better than the author. The author even learning more about the script after sending it out into the cold, cruel world. But the point is that the text is written and then gifted to others for their interpretation.

The interpretation question is the why question.

In a similar way, God gifts the creation to interpretors. Interpreters, well, like me. Like you. We read the script. We watch the play. And we interpret. The theological question of interpretation is more basic, I suggest, than is our freedom of the will. Debates between free will and God's sovereignty are endless and ultimately circular. But we all interpret. We all assign meaning to the stories we see. We look at the creation that God has made and it impacts us. What do we think of this cosmic drama? How does it hit us? What conclusions do we draw? What conclusions do we not draw?

And what of the author? What of the creator? This is interpretation, as well.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

Do we judge the Creator based upon his creation? What is the connection? Augustine said, "You have created us for yourself and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you." Were we created in the "image" of God? And what does this mean? Do we have a built-in connection with our Creator? Again, this is interpretation.[1]

We all take that step of determining what it all means. For some God is to be hated for his creation. Others are indifferent - he created and I live it out. Still others pursue the Creator, like Augustine, with reckless abandon. And then there are many, perhaps most, who find the Creator useful - God is useful as the symbolic representation of the religious institution of their choice. God is the gold that gives currency to the institution of church or state. He is stability.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth....but you and I have the divine prerogative of giving it meaning. We are the meaning-givers. The meaning-creators. This is our nature. This is our gift.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Where were you when OJ was served?

Back in 1994 I was a young, 16 year old kid. Bright eyed and ready to conquer the world. My family had taken a vacation to South Dakota and, because of my incredible sense of responsibility, I was allowed to stay at home and keep all things in order. Unfortunately, the OJ thing broke and spooked my parents. What were they thinking leaving their eldest offspring alone with crazies like OJ roaming the streets of L.A.!??! (Never mind that we lived in the middle of an Indiana cornfield.) And then to make matters worse - much worse - I gave a ride to a complete stranger despite the fact that I did not have my driver's license yet. And then to go from much worse to, well, even more worserer still, I was speaking with my concerned parents on the phone and told them, "Uh, someone's at the door, I'll be right back." I set the phone down and never returned.

Panic set in. The fam came back early. And Yours Truly was grounded from getting his driver's license for two months. The punishment, of course, was inhumane for a 16 year old American kid who lived in the country.

And it all started with OJ. Hopefully, he won't screw up my life, again, with his recent Las Vegas arrest.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

2007 Lake City Bank Half-Marathon

I am nuturing a rather sore left knee. Iced it today.

In Saturday's Half-Marathon I really hit a major wall in the last two miles. I've been training more for speed, and less for distance, and I didn't take anything to drink along the way, so by the time I got to mile 10 I had used all the gas in the tank. By mile 11 it was a matter of prayer. The last mile? I'm not quite sure how I got through that, but I do remember that my eye sight got a little funny and I started seeing sparkley things everywhere.

As is true for most local races here in Winona Lake and Warsaw there always seems to be some little quirk. Without quirks a local race would lack character. This time, for the life of me, I couldn't find any Gatorade to drink after the race. In fact, there wasn't anything at all set up to eat and drink! But the band was playing. Apparently, one of the guitarists formerly played with Ozzie or something....

I finished with a time of 1:46:29. That's something like 8:08 per mile, I think. James Kennedy topped the list with a time of 1:09, which I believe is something like 5:17 per mile - yikes! That's fast! James recently told me that he is feeling like he is in good shape. Ok. Yes. We can attest to that.

I feel a bit banged up because I ran the race hard, but it is a good pain. I only kill myself like this once or twice a year. (Because unlike other people, pain hurts me.)

Here I am pre-race. Like Superman I am ripping off my street clothes and getting ready to fly:

The Body

I often times feel inside my heart that preaching Christianity is useless....sorry, just using my blog to be honest here....perhaps I feel that more and more as time goes on. There are so many varieties of religion in the world, and so many fantastic versions of the Xtian faith that I tend to get a bit depressed. For example, if I had my past memory sucked out of my mind, where would I be? Besides having a difficult time remembering where to go to the bathroom (and why bathrooms are such a big deal, anyway) what would I think of Christianity? It's a question one can't answer because what we are has so much to do with our past. But would I give Christ a second look with all of the competing world views flying around in this world?

Not that there won't always be a place for religion at the table of ideas and feelings. People are always looking for something greater than themselves, are they not? Hence Christianity becomes Xianity - Christ drops out and we make it what we will, an "opiate for the masses" as the old man once said.

Right now, on this evening, as I listen to Amy Winehouse's new blues-inflected pop sounds and rest my knee from yesterday's brutal half marathon I honestly think there is only one thing that would make me consider giving Christ a second look. That is power. Power primarily demonstrated by the living body of Christ. Christ must be more than a savior who rose some two thousand years ago, rather, he must be alive and active. Moving, living and breathing in a community of people who love each other and move gracefully towards ethical purity and personal authenticity.

As such, power is found not in the grand building projects of the church or in the full stadiums or in the marches on Washington. This strikes me more as Xianity. Christ moves aside for the greater benefit of the large-scale projects. And if Christ were to get in the way of the project, well, all the worse for Christ.

But I find the greatest need for power to accomplish the simple things of the faith. The high calling is not to a large scale, but to a small scale. Love. Unity. Community. Purity of heart. Purity of life. Authenticity. Genuine faith exploration. True Worship.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Is there still a problem with evil?

Humor me on this one.

I'm thinking in terms of traditional Christian apologetics when I ask this question. In the past apologetics has looked at evil as a problem to be solved. That is, the existence of evil poses a fundamental contradiction to the basic, core theological positions of Christianity:

God is all powerful
God is all Good
Evil Exists

Either God is not powerful enough to stop evil
Or God is powerful enough, but by golly he isn't good - because a Good God would use his power (as most of us would) to rid the world of evil.

Why is it that this question no longer interests me? It's not as if I haven't spent years of my life thinking about it (because I have). And it isn't as if I have a good solution (because I don't). So, why does the question no longer interest me?

I understand that I am asking you to comment on my own, personal state of mind, and help me figure myself out a bit here. But I could also tack on this question: By and large, do folks still care about the above "problem"? Hence, is there still a problem with evil? Not all cultures and societies wrestle with the tension. Are there still a significant number of believers who would reject their faith b/c of the perceived problem? Are there still a significant number of intelligent atheists who find the tension to be problematic and a barrier to belief?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The cross and the self

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

What does it mean to "deny himself"? To "take up one's cross" and to follow?

We might, at first, be tempted to think of it in terms of the death of self. Indeed, we might then rush to tie in Saint Paul's declaration: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!" (Gal 2:20)

Taking up one's cross in the sense that Jesus speaks of it in Luke 9 must be equated with the death of self, which is surely what Saint Paul speaks of in Galatians 2.

But then we are immediately at odds, or so it seems, with the Kierkegaard quote at the top of this blog, the quote that stands ready, like a sentry, to guard and protect and to cultivate the self with its warning - a warning so pertinent and germane to our generation, as though Kierkegaard himself had uttered it for 21st century humanity:

For a self is the last thing the world cares about and the most dangerous thing of all for a person to show signs of having. The greatest hazard of all, losing the self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. (The Sickness Unto Death p. 32-33)

But the first thing I note is that for Kierkegaard a "healthy" self is one that is connected with its Creator. Thus, "the self is healthy and free from despair only when, precisely by having despaired, it rests transparently in God." (p. 30)

But what then does it mean to "deny" one's self? To take up one's cross? Or to concur with Saint Paul and say that it is no longer I, but rather it is now Christ who lives within me?

There is, perhaps, something of a war of "selves" at work within. On the one hand, there is the pure self. This is the Kierkegaardian self. This is the self as it was made in the beginning: To rest transparently in God. Having been made in the image of God and in the likeness of God this self was meant to mirror God and be united, through Christ, with God in rest. [Crf. Heb 4]

But the denying of one's self is different. In the case of Saint Paul we return to Galatians: "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (5:24) This "self" is connected with the sinful nature, and it is this "self" that Saint Paul declares to be crucified. I believe this also is similar to what Jesus had in mind in speaking of taking up the cross, as he says in the verses immediately following: "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (NIV) Other versions translate "self" as "soul," and yet the concept remains. That is, that there is a pure self, in the Kierkegaardian sense, and in order to truly understand this self - and to truly cultivate this self there must be a death. A death of desire, and a surrender to the bearing of a cross. Even more! To a "taking up" of one's cross - a willing denial in the order of Christ's taking up of his cross.

It seems as though in our age we desire to cultivate desire and passion, but to put to death the pure self that was created to transcend and to worship the Creator. In this sense, then, we have things turned in an awful reversal. Through the marketplace we seek to buy the self, when in reality we are only putting to death the purity of our selves and gratifying desire. We seek to purchase the self and only consume it by overconsumption. We buy and consume. We purchase things and consume things. We consume people and consume relationships and consume the other selves around us.

In the end we have consumed and put to death the true self, crucifying the image of God within us, and completing the disconnect with the Creator and even with other selves. What we should have been putting to death is what we rushed to gratify and what we should have cultivated is, in the tragic end, the very thing that we have crucified.

To Kim

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mount Tallac

A cool pic that my bro. took from Mount Tallac, which is in California, southwest of Lake Tahoe.

Doth anyone have a verse or rhyme to share that hath inspired them after viewing this majestic mountain top picture? This is in keeping with the new tone, which, incidentally, the new tone will probably not last long as it seems we are getting more and more votes for "the same down-in-the-mouth garble" and "think Pearl Jam and Emo Kids." Plus, I keep getting more ideas for down-in-the-mouth garble posts that I want to put up, as well as a lengthy post on Wittgenstein's biography (Monk) that I think will be interesting. Probably not too much time left for the Waterfalls of Love theme, so, if you have a word of inspiration on this Monday morning now is the time to share.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The waterfalls of love

The following is an attempt to change the tone and attitude of this blog. Following the reactions of my previous post I thought I would make an effort to bring "positive and uplifting" words, kinda' like the Christian radio stations.

Waterfalls of love
by Jonathan Erdman

As I enter the forest of peace I hear the sounds of joy
The tranquil little creatures scurry along
Spreading their little blessings of truth
I breathe in the freshness of heavenly air and say,
"Ah, 'tis the place for you
For here are the waterfalls of love"

I dance among the petals of delight
and rejoice upon the flowering wonder
The trees of tranquility bless me again
And the bushes of fullness bid me with a rustle
But my journey is beyond
For I journey to the waterfalls of love

As grace speeds me along and mercy bids me now
I come to the clearing of the pastures' sun
Upon my eyes fall the vision of goodness
And I say to my self, yea in that very place
"Self, 'tis the pathway of love and you shall proceed
To the waterfalls of love

From the clearing to the Victorious Elms!
Through the magnanimity of strength renewed
Verily my feet speed me on
I am carried, as it were, by the vision anew
And carried to the springs of which I speak
To the waterfalls, yea, the waterfalls of love

What spies my disbelieving eye?
'Tis the falls of them that have reached unto peace
I glide into the waters and they rush over my head
Waters of love
Oh, waters of love
My soul has reached them - the waterfalls of love

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"A living hell" and other misunderstandings

For those of you who read me regularly you know that every now and again I find people (usually Evangelicals or conservatives of some stripe) who soften Qohelet (the book of Ecclesiastes) and sell a chewable, children's version. This happens for many portions of Scripture, but I find it especially true of Qohelet that ministers/preachers/teachers/scholars/etc. continually turn the robust, rich, and complex wine of Qohelet into a little swig of grape juice.

Here is the latest quote I found, this from Junius Batten Pressey Jr.:
What Ecclesiastes makes abundantly clear is that life on the earth without submission to God's direction is a living hell. You're born. You work all your life. You die. That's it. No rest, and no meaning to the whole thing. If you buy into the world's view of human effort, you'll be draining yourself even when you dream.[1]

The point of this article is to tell Christians not to go so hard and to carry their crosses by day and lay them down by night. But the funny thing is that even if one is in "submission to God's direction" there is still no escaping the hevel (translated as "meaningless" or "absurd") of life. And the book of Job goes straight to this point - talk about a living hell! For all of Job's questioning and searching he still remained submissive to the will of God. Even reduced to dust and ashes.

Just another encouragement to allow Scriptures like Qohelet to speak new things into our contexts and not to be contented with spiritual fast food.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Random Photo, Random Story

I found this nice photograph over at Beautifully Profound.

Here's the task for your imagination. Take this seemingly random photo, which could be from anywhere in the world, and give me a story. What is going on? What is happening behind the scenes? Perhaps something is about to happen? Perhaps nothing has ever happened?

Let's see what our collective imaginations can conjure up.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Save the lame show, save the world

As we approach the fall television sitcom season it is time to get something off of my chest: I think that Heroes is lame.

I found a great deal to be desired in terms of character and plot development, which was even more aggravated by the insertion of endless commercial breaks.....But here is the thing: Any show whose rallying cry is "save the cheerleader, save the world" is not going to make it on to Erd-tube very often. (And, yes, as of yet I have not gone to widescreen, High Def technology.) I mean, with all the money spent on these sitcoms you're telling me that the networks don't have someone on staff to ask whether or not the main advertising slogan makes any sense?

"Save the cheerleader"??? I just can't get into that.

Friday Night Lights. Now that's a good show. I'm down with it and looking forward to next season. Football in a small town. Let's roll, baby!