Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Two wrong, two right

First off, I would just like to say that whoever came up with the "Titanic Slide Ride" is a sick person. Somewhere up in Couer D'alene, along the side of the highway there is some business (I want to say a car dealership) where there is this giant inflated, look-alike Titanic. And it's purposely tilted up so that it appears to be in the last moments above water. You can see a little over half of the ship: the other half, we are made to believe, is submerged already. But this is not a memorial, this is not a museum, this is a slide. People, kids even, can pay money and slide down the decks of the Titanic. It feels just like you were aboard the real thing! That's sick. I think I'm going to go out and start a business of my own: Twin Towers Bungee Jumping. I'm going to have look alike Towers complete with smoking holes from where the planes hit.

Second, in a cutesy, Halmark shop with the name of a cookie (I think). It is now possible to buy your very own bag of bat droppings. If you're from out of town and you'd like a bag, just drop me a note or leave a comment, and I'd be happy to go up and get you one. Seeing as there is such a shortage a bat poop, I'm sure glad these folks are bagging it and making it available for public consumption. This is just a guess, but I bet it makes great Christmas tree decorations.

But First of all, I am moderately pleased that the New York Yankees lost the other day. That means that the Florida Marlins are the World Series Champions. I'm not a big fan of the Marlins, but I'm certainly not a big fan of the Yankees. Thus my moderate enthusiasm. It was also a nice touch for Florida to beat New York in New York. I would have cared more had the Chicago Cups or Boston Red Sox gone to the World Series. Alas. But overall I can consider the defeat of the Yankees a good thing.

And Secondly, I attended the first ever "One Night" at the University of Idaho campus last night. It was a joint service of worship and prayer for all the Christian campus ministries. I'm excited about the prospects of the catholic Church here in the Moscow area. Last night was good for a first start in terms of campus ministry. I haven't sung praise choruses in a long time. And of the 8 or 10 that we sang, I only vaguely remembered one tune. One thing that's nice about the choruses is that they're simple enough to be learned easily. Though as far as I could tell, those of us from Trinity and Christ Church were the only ones who didn't know the songs. But that's ok. I enjoyed the clapping and overall enthusiasm of the worship, a whole area that reformed and presbyterian worship lacks much of the time. And although I hope to one day come to a "One Night" where we sing Psalms and Hymns and pray liturgical prayers together, I also hope one day to attend highly liturgical services at Trinity or Christ Church where the beauty of discipline and order is supplamented by the joy and (biblical) enthusiasm of clapping and dancing.


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Trinity Reformed

Some things in life have a strange way of happening in such a way as to seem as though they had never happened but instead had always been, so natural they seem. Being married to my wife is one example, my friendship with the Blues is another. Like other relatives, these too, even at the very first hello, seemed to have always been close, significant parts of my life. So also more recently with Trinity Reformed Church, the new mission church plant in Moscow, pastored by Peter Leithart. Our decision to be apart of that group of people has been with a near thoughtless and careless ease. That is to say: it feels like home after only a few months. Last night an informational meeting was held as a first step in constituting membership for the church. Elder training is in the works, and other community focused ministries are gathering steam. The prospect of having two thriving reformed churches in town is very exciting. It's like waking up one morning only to realize that there you are, having two legs.


Monday, October 20, 2003

Here's to John Barach

After months of putting it off, I purchased Theology after Wittgenstein by Fergus Kerr a couple of weeks ago. I'm a good third to half way through the book and enjoying it immensly. His main project is a deconstruction of Cartesian egocentrism particularly as it manifests itself in theology. Wittgenstein is wound in and out of the discussion as the thematic centerfold so to speak. There are many memorable quotes and stories both from Wittgenstein and others. Some of the best have come from Barth and Wittgenstein's marxist friends. I hope to post some of those in the future. Thanks for the tip-off, John.


Saturday, October 18, 2003

Sir Porter and the Heaters

I have a dog you may have heard. His Porterness is as friendly as a dog can be, as far as I'm concerned. The real deal is that he has a certain keeness for all things foodish. By which is meant he worships his belly. This is why St. Paul referred to the false teachers in Philippi as dogs as far as I can tell. But for the moment the thing that wags his tail the wrong way are the heaters. He has bad dreams about heaters. His hair pricks and his tail droops. He cowers and whines and goes wee wee wee all the way home. And I don't mean anything other that what it sounds like. He brutally attacked and murdered the chord of one of my heaters, and I fear the day he attacks the one in the kitchen. His Porterness has beknighted himself and finds his destiny somehow fulfilled in throttling the dragons inside my heaters. The other thing is that it's getting to be a bit cold here. And that's really the heart of my concern.


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Learning is Giving

“Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; And being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” (Heb. 5:7-9)

Learning is usually thought of as a kind of getting. We often think an education takes place when a teacher meets in a room with students and a transfer of information ensues: the teacher gives; the students receive information. There are a number of difficulties with this picture, but the primary one is that we must somehow fit the eternal Son of the Father into this scenario. And I'm not sure we can. The Son did not learn in such a way. He was not absent some bit of information that suffering could enlighten Him about.

Our problems with discussing how God learns are tangled up, I believe, in our misconceived notions about what it means to learn. It is the common assumption of modern educators that their magnum opus in the world is something like giving someone a load of firewood to carry inside. “Here’s math, here’s science, here’s history, don’t forget spelling, be careful, don’t drop it.” And the good students dutifully carry their load to the house, and the bad students let the load tumble from their arms leaving a trail of wood behind them. The point being, that we usually think of learning primarily in terms of getting or receiving (or loading, as the case may be). I want to suggest that such a model is antithetical to the pattern we are given in the Scriptures. This sets up the world of education with an incredibly selfish center. Success or failure is measured by what I got instead of what I gave.

By contrast, when we look to Jesus as the example of a perfect student, we see a man whose primary mission is one of giving. Hebrews tells us that Jesus learned by His passion. He offered Himself up to God in prayers and tears and intense sufferings. Our Lord did not come to receive anything from the world. At the most basic level, He didn’t need anything. Rather, God became man in order to give. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45) Christ’s sufferings were His education. He learned as He gave Himself away. This is not to say that in learning we receive nothing. The Son learned obedience and was given the whole world as His inheritance. Students do receive but only as they give themselves away for others.

As an aside, in Hebrew, verbs change nuance based on what paradigm they are in. The piel paradigm is often used to increase intensity. Thus with the verb 'kill' in the qal becomes 'slaughter' in the piel. Interestingly, the verb 'learn' in the qal becomes 'teach' in the piel. Thus, the Greatest Teacher is not merely giving information, he too is in the middle of an intense learning experience. So too with all who would aspire to such greatness. Learning is much more akin to a dance. A successful classroom is one where a harmonious giving and receiving takes place. And in such a harmony we reflect the triune nature of God.

Central to any Christian philosophy of education must be the concern that students are first and foremost givers. Great learners are those people that give themselves away. “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.” (Mk. 10:44) I believe this starting point calls for much reevaluation of 'traditional' educational programs. Testing, grading, teaching, and the overall classroom aroma of most modern education must be reformatted with the purpose of giving and serving others front and center.


Thursday, October 02, 2003


Susan Stewart, in her Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, says that poetry is an attempt on the part humanity to bring finitude to a seemingly infinite world. The base metaphor is that of light and darkness. Darkness, she says, is the presence of eternality and immortality, the limitless uknown. She says, "In the darkness all territory is without bound or name, all lines are crossed, all acts are improvisational in their means and ends..." I have started and re-started this book several times, being side tracked by other demands, but I'm curious as to whether she will fill this our further. Particularly, I wonder about the correlation she draws between darkness and improvisation. Would this suggest a connection between light and correography? Is poetry an attempt at a verbal liturgy?