A LOVE SUPREME

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, 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.

59 comments:

Melody said...

Interesting.

chris van allsburg said...

huh?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Should I pull this post?

Beautifully Profound said...

Nooo, don't pull it. Why would you?

As far as religion and interpretation being fed to us like we are babies, sometimes that's the only way people will swallow things. Especially now,in and age of such Godlessness and ignorance.

Beautifully Profound said...

Or maybe I am missing the point.

ktismatics said...

"There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked. On the other hand, there are evil men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is futility. So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 8:14-15)

Melody said...

Why would you pull it? You don't pull any of the other stuff you put up.

Beautifully Profound said...

Just a quick question. I didn't see any FAQ section in your contents. I see you are going to Seminary, does that mean you are studying to be a preacher? I am not sure what else you'd be going to Seminary for. If you are going to be a preacher what made you decide that was what you wanted to do with your life?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I think it might be good to pull this post because it might be a bit to "violent." I need to attract more mainstream Christian bloggers, and as such I must cultivate an environment of niceness and safeness. Haven't you listened to Christian radio recently???

Jonathan Erdman said...

I see you are going to Seminary, does that mean you are studying to be a preacher? I am not sure what else you'd be going to Seminary for. If you are going to be a preacher what made you decide that was what you wanted to do with your life?

I entered seminary with hopes of pursuing further research and a theological life in academia.

I exit seminary depressed and rather unimpressed with the state of theology.

Melody said...

The bitterness and cynicism is fun, but its not making a whole lot of sense to me.

What does christian radio have to do with your blog? They cater to a certain audience...nothing wrong with that. If I had kids I wouldn't want them singing along to "Dani California" or "Follow Me". And I'm guessing they probably wouldn't be much interested in your blog...if they were they would have the most amazing reading comprehension scores ever.

Anyhow, the point is I don't get your point. And what's with the bitterness?

Jonathan Erdman said...

The audience for such Christian radio station represents a certain approach to Christianity that focuses on safe religious belief/practice and the cultivation of all things pure and nice. I'm just thinking that from a marketing perspective maybe I should switch my target audience.

How is this:
Welcome to the Theos Project! You've found a safe place on the internet!

Of course, I might want to dump the Greek term, Theos. Also, I think that "project" is a poor representation - it implies that which is in process and subject to change and uncertainty....hhhmmm.....how about "Sure Foundation" instead?

Welcome to God's Firm Foundation! The website for positive and uplifting words. You've found a safe place on the internet!

What do we think?

Beautifully Profound said...

I think you are probably cranky and you need some chocolate.

Beautifully Profound said...

You really shouldn't soften things. The general public does not need softening.

Emily said...

agreed

Melody said...

And you could have a youtube puppet show on Saturdays!

But then again, you running a puppet show would make it more traumatic than a puppet show already is. One day you'd just snap and there'd be decapitated, puppet corpses everywhere.

"I'm sorry children, Leo the Lion and Susie Smiles had to go be with Jesus..."

Mmm, no, I'm thinking maybe you should just keep on blogging after your usual fashion...

...or you could change it randomly for no other reason than...what was that a few posts back? Change is good? Would that sum up that post?

Oh. and incidentally...your plan sucks from a marketing perspective.

1. You can't just switch your target audience, consumers are an easily confused bunch of lemmings.

2. Its an over-saturated market anyhow.

3. You don't have anything to market.

And if you ever do have something to market...hire someone else to do it for you...you just keep on proofreading those manuscripts.

chris van allsburg said...

HUH?

Jason Hesiak said...

Although I see your point, I don't think "project" implies openness any more than "foundation." The whole point of a "project" is to hit a target. To close the deal. To finish. That's why we live AFTER the modern "project." I'd say it should be more like a "Theos Stroll." Although that's a bit too leisurely for what you're doing. Maybe a "Theos Building."

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris, your two comments here seem to me to be both redundant as well as redundant.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Maybe we could call it the Theos Fortress. And then when people come to the site we could have a mighty rendition of A Mighty Fortress playing in the background.

If this thing takes off and we can start a corporation and/or a non-profit organization then perhaps we can have a big campus with big buildings. In that case we will have to hire you as our architect. So, please be thinking of grand fortress-like designs for the facility.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris, your two comments here seem to me to be both redundant as well as redundant.

Melody said...

Hey, I like that hymn.

Besides, if you name it "God Fortess" I'm afraid I'll have to start a protest on basis of of your sucky theology...maybe I could have a spin off group with little banner ads featuring snappy slogans twisting your words into really thinly veiled attacks on your website.

I don't know what the slogans would be, but they would look awesome.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, naturally my theology will have to change in order to accommodate the new target market.

I will begin expounding on the evils of postmoderns, open theists, gays, liberals, the new age, and movies/music/television that is "godless" and "a bad influence on Christian young people."

Melody said...

Well it's good to hear we can count on your support in protestng the return of "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

But protesting the New Age movement is so early ninties. Try protesting the emergent church...they're kinda asking for it anyhow...stupid hipster kids flaunting their cool music.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Agreed.

And they curse and drink.

Jason Hesiak said...

How bout "Theos Grotto":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grotto

:)

Jason Hesiak said...

"The word comes from Italian grotta, Vulgar Latin grupta, Latin crypta, (a crypt). It is related by a historical accident to the word grotesque in the following way: in the late 15th century, Romans unearthed by accident Nero's Domus Aurea on the Palatine Hill, a series of rooms underground (as they had become over time), that were decorated in designs of garlands, slender architectural framework, foliations and animals. The Romans who found them thought them very strange, a sentiment enhanced by their 'underworld' source. Because of the situation in which they were discovered, this form of decoration was given the name grottesche or grotesque."

"The mystery and perceived danger of these underground sites easily led to the formation of myths and gods. The upper Palaeolithic paintings at places like Lascaux are likely to have had mystical connections and Greek and Roman gods such as Hades (Pluto), follow the same tradition. Christianity has sought to make such places safe by developing shrines there."

Melody said...

...

Jonathan Erdman said...

I like the militarist tone....I also like the ancient connection....however, my new target market might be ill at ease with a reference to Nero and the perception of danger. Remember our new motto: "You've found a safe place on the internet."

We want a militaristic tone without the hassle of danger or risk. It's the suburb mentality: Send the boys overseas to fight the wars, and we'll worry about keeping the economy juiced and fighting traffic.

Melody said...

Meh, Nero's dead...I think your new audience can handle a dead bad guy.

I mean that lady in "Jesus Camp" referenced muslim terrorists...that might have been going too far (I mean, the kids did cry) but if she can get away with that, I think you're safe with Nero.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I don't know....Nero is still a very scary character. I mean, he burned Christians. The only thing burning for my new target market are the really, really bad people (see Adolf Hitler and Bill Clinton) and the thirteen hundred dollar grill in the backyard.

Melody said...

Yes, yes, but since our God is not a God of timidity and fear we are empowered to face people that died thousands of years ago...and yes, Hillary Clinton too.

We're not like those other Christians...they don't know how to stand firm, but by golly (excuse my language) we can be like the Christians of old and fight for our right to wear vaugely religious jewelry to work!

After we finish up the barbeque, of course.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Having this disagreement is making me uncomfortable. I'm going to go grab another brat and show you the remodeling we've been doing in the family room.

Melody said...

You see? This is exactly why I'm going to have to start up my web-page of dissenting opinion. You have no ability to focu-Oooh, I like the molding, and the new paint...is that from the Eddie Bauer collection?

Emily said...

This is a bit of a side note, but slightly fits in...

Last night my parents watched a special on PBS entitled "Generation Next." I did not want to watch it, but was in the room for part of the time, so I got the treat of listening to some of it. Mom got out her handy-dandy legal-sized notepad for notetaking. I didn't take a peak at her scribblings, but from what I overheard, it's main points were:

"They" like gadgets and technology more than the previous generation.
"They" don't want to be exactly like their parents.

Wow.

At its end, Mom proclaimed, "I'm disappointed. I didn't learn anything new."

Jason Hesiak said...

"the militarist tone"? I was referring to its being a garden, organically grown from the "dangerous" shadows of the underneath below. As opposed to the epistemological "projectile" just waiting to hit its target. the "militarist" "under"tone is like an ironic "subversive" (but not "militarist") character entering from the back door of the machine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Villa_torrigiani_di_lucca%2C_scalinata.JPG

Jonathan Erdman said...

I'm sorry but I don't see a backyard grill in that picture. Where, exactly, would one barbeque???

chris van allsburg said...

I drank wine last night. We watched the 1st season of The Office. Not all at the same time, however, we did it in sequence throught the medium of our DVD player. The Tigers won in extra innings. They won in extra innings today, too.

My job is less lucrative this year than last. I think I'll have some more wine tonite.

Jason Hesiak said...

You place it in the middle of the fountain, in case the fire gets out of control.

Jonathan Erdman said...

I had brandy mixed with ginger ale soda(a fine, Michigan product).

Bet you've never tried that before!

chris van allsburg said...

i just got done singing the Hebrew alphabet song with my wife and two kids. the baby didn't sing it though.

chris van allsburg said...

Brandy w/soda sounds expensive. Fancy-like. Sophisticated! Yes, that's the word. Do you have a red satin smoking jacket, an elaborate library, a sitting chair and fireplace to boot?

Melody said...

He has a barely functional couch...

...does that count?

ktismatics said...

I'm afraid that, unconsciously speaking, this post is starting to veer toward pornography. Be careful, you Gen Yers, or "someone" might have to report you to the Christian thought police.

Melody said...

Pornography?!

You have a dirtier mind that Jonathan Lindvall....good grief.

ktismatics said...

I'm afraid you're projecting now, but that's a tried-and-true evangelical defense mechanism -- so you're back in good standing. Jonathan who?

Melody said...

Ah, sorry, Jonathan Lindvall is a speaker/writer widely known in conservative circles...advocates betrothal as the only real way to be pure and find a spouse...also the stoning of television sets.

Lindvall see's sexual inuendo in everything and I figure that if he finds things like The Sound of Music too provacative...he must have a dirty mind indeed.

But for you, the mere mention of...livingroom furniture (?) was enough...so I thought that would make you worse.

That's the theory anyhow.

ktismatics said...

So shall we propose that the ability to detect sexual innuendo in purportedly "innocent" sources is an indicator of religious conservatism? So maybe Freud was a closet fundamentalist?

Melody said...

He might have been ;)

chris van allsburg said...

I have written non sequiturs because I failed to see the point Jon was originally trying to make; plus the flow of the post since then has taken a new form that seemed alien.

I just don't see the connection he is trying to make with his criticism of the article and his alternative view on a proper reading of the book.


Hence, "huh?"

Melody said...

Well, I don't know about the rest of it...but I think your orginal "huh?" shook him up pretty badly.

He's now reconsidering everything this blog has held dear...and it all started a couple hours after that comment.

Don't feel too badly though, he was probably teetering on the edge of conservativism already...your confusion just pushed him over.

chris van allsburg said...

Well, YOU'RE the one who said, "Interesting." I just said "Huh?" All I wanted was some clarification. I'm all about criticizing sappy evangelical cliches. Larknews, Wittenberg Door, that's me. Os Guinness's call in life is to criticize the church (so he writes in his book, The Call). So keep up the criticism. We need it.

This idea of changing the blog is really just a joke, right?

chris van allsburg said...

I have this damn squirrel or something that will not stop living in my walls. It's right behind my computer, and then it scurries above my head in the attic. I've set traps, had our house insulated. Ahhhhhh!

Jason Hesiak said...

I'm convinced that Freud was a transvestite, Jesus was Dr. Seuss, Dr. Suess is George Bush, and Dr. Zizek is having a horribly immoral affiar with some obscure ancestor of Comte on which his Father looks down disapprovingly.

Melody said...

Hey, I'm not saying that Jon's reaction made any sense...I'm just saying, hell didn't break loose till shortly after your comment.

Guinness said that in The Call?
He criticized the church in that book? I don't remember that. I just remember he quoted C.S. Lewis so much that I wondered why we weren't reading his stuff instead.

chris van allsburg said...

Melody:

Ha! That's funny. Yes Guinness said that in the first chapter or so in reference to his own calling in life--as a critic of the church and apologist, among other things.

And--making all hell break loose by means of one word is pretty good on my part("All hell's breaking loose" is also a song by Kiss on thier 1983 album upon which they appear for the 1st time w/o makeup; did they coin the phrase, by the way?)

I didn't go to a prestigious school or excell at anything in life really up to this point. But now I think I've really done it. "Well, you've really done it now, Olly."

Melody said...

Mmm, and here I thought Os Guinness' calling was to redefine half the words in the english language (my other major complaint about the book).

Yeah, I think you should definately mark September 5th on your calander. It is a big accomplishment.

chris van allsburg said...

Yeah, I've only read the 1st few chapters. Then I got bored. I still don't know what my vocational calling is, though (I mean, "what I'm gonna do for $).
So maybe I should finish.

Melody said...

I had to write a paper on almost every chapter...I don't think I found it that helpful.