Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The Problem of Us

It has been asked, "How could there be a god when there's evil in the world?" "How could there be a god when there's pain and suffering?" As we have pointed out numerous times, these questions are incoherent. The questions, though in the guise of reason and concern, are empty and worthless because they appeal to the standard which they question, a god is being served, so the question deserves no answer.

However in a similar vein, though hopefully with less deceit, Barth turns the question around. How could a good and perfect God, who has no need of anyone or anything, create us? How could eternal Joy and Love be moved to make something outside Himself? "This is the riddle of creation." Why would perfect satisfaction be moved to make something other? How and why would this be possible? If there's any dilemma, it's this one. It's the Problem of Us. How could there be Us when there's a good and perfect God?


Monday, November 24, 2003

World Eye

I have doubts. I get vibes, I get Kantian vibes from the Christian Worldview machine. I realize that most folks simply mean that Christians need to think Christianly. And that's all well and good.

But thought does not create reality. Obviously how a man thinks influences who he is and the manner in which he is in the world, and yes, ideas do have consequences. But ideas are not the sole cause of events in the world, like many (well meaning) Christians claim. Actions are just as determinative as thought if not more so. How we pray and sing and dance and eat are just as important as how we think. We are not required to simply love God with all of our minds, but also with all of our heart, soul, and strength. In short, the history of the world isn't the result of ideas but the result of all of Creation and it's response to its Creator.


I believe in

Barth pointed out that the preposition "in" in the Apostle's Creed does not merely designate the content of our belief or the direction in which we believe (ie. the purpose or object of belief). Rather, the "in" must also include the ground from which we believe. As Christians we have been brought into the fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit. It is from that status and location that we are even able to begin to say "I believe..." Our faith is not only "in" God in the sense that He is the object of our faith, it is also "in" God in the sense that it is the origin of our faith. The Church confesses its faith from within the Triune communion of God. "In Him we live and move and have our being" and "In Him all things consist".

One implication is simply God's dedication to us. He brings us into his fellowship, into his communion, into his being, and from that place we are taught the words, "I believe..." Like parents bringing a child home from the hospital, we are brought home even before we know the words. We are taught faith from the shadow of his wings.


Sunday, November 23, 2003

Rook Beports

You can't trust the titles I have on that side panel thingy. I read those a while ago. I'm now reading Dogmatics in Outline by Karl Barth, A Primer on Postmodernism by Stanely Grenz, almost done with Theology after Wittgenstein by Fergus Kerr, and I'm teaching and reading L'morte D'arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory. I started Tocqueville's Democracy in America recently, but I suspect it will remain marked on page 50 until Christmas. I also just received The Catholicity of the Reformation ed. by Braaten and Jenson.

A few quick thoughts on the aforementioned titles: Barth. So far I haven't found anything scary, extreme, or really all that controversial. I read a few online reports that range anywhere from "Barth is the greatest theologian since Calvin" to "Barth is a socialist, word twisting, self-deceived, maniacle adulterer". All I know is that Barth is referenced everywhere. Every theologian that has the least bit of relevance has to cite Barth, either in disgust or praise. And of those, so far I'd have to side with the latter. I suspect that Barth was an incredibly honest man. Honest people tell the truth, meaning that they don't make pronouncements about matters which they don't know. And when they do make pronouncements they are usually more general or can be taken in a number of different directions. This scares some people and excites others. Hence the enemy/hero write ups. I like Barth's emphasis on freedom. Freedom is essential to the personality and community of God, and therefore freedom is a significant part in redemption. He argues that faith is freedom, insofaras it is our seeking to live in the life and communion of God.

Kerr on Wittgenstein. What is meant by the pronoun "I"? Wittgenstein says that the pronoun refers to our body. The "I", the "ego", or whathaveyou is the body which thinks, speaks, touches, tastes, breathes, etc. There is no reason to go beyond this. We are living bodies. And this assessment resonates, demands, and pleads with greater furvor for the resurrection of the dead. This insistence on the body as being fundamentally 'who' we are is refreshing, as Kerr points out, particularly as it applies to fellowship and community. The Cartesian Ego places barriers between people and ultimately the Incarnation is not "God with us", it's something like "God a little closer". For Descartes (and his legacy), God may have landed on the earth but he was wearing an astonaut suit like the rest of us. We have not really connected.

Last for tonight: Mallory. Having never read this before, I really don't know much about these tales, but I've been amused, shocked, and informed in a variety of ways in the last week since beginning the read. First the shocked bit. The utter ignobility of Arthur, Uther, Merlin, and everyone else is more than I was prepared for. Maybe that's a little overstated, but the adultery, fornication, murder, etc. makes The Death of Arthur a veritible medieval soap opera. Although, after reading a short bio of Mallory, it all became a bit more clear. This fellow was a regular rouge. He was imprisoned on a number of occasions, escaped twice (once swimming a moat). He was wanted for burglary, assalting an abbott, and seducing a nobleman's wife. He fought on the side of Edward VI in one battle and subsequentally switched sides. His waivering earned him another bit of jail time toward the end of his life. He wrote/compiled these Arthurian tales in the last couple of years of his life, and he died shortly before they were published in 1485. The amusing bit is that this swashbuckling life in Mallory and as displayed by the characters of his tales is punctuated with incredibly devout Christian celebration. The knights regularly attend mass, say prayers, celebrate Christian feasts, proclaim their status as Christians, etc. And this leads to the informative bit, I suspect that this is a very good (albeit simplistic) portrayal of life in the Church prior to the Reformation. Obviously not everyone was as wild (or daring?), but the seemingly earnest marriage of well-meaing devotion and utter ignorance and consequent sinfulness seems to fit the bill... I don't know, just a thought.


Monday, November 10, 2003

Bread to Light

I wake up: It's dark.

I drive in the dark.

There are no lights on inside. The bakery smells like dough. And I take my gloves off and toss them on the table by the door. I usually make a round of the kitchen just to see what's gone on in the last 20 hours of operation. It's dark outside. It's always dark out there. It's always dark until right before the bread is ready. I bake bread for the sun to rise.

There's a heap of croissant dough in a trash can: it was mixed wrong. Three Chocolatines are abandoned on the cooling rack, they were never dipped after bake out. That's why it's dark. The sun knows there's no bread. I pass on to the refrigerator door. Luther posted theses on a church door, we post our worlds on a the cold metal of a cooler. "Please, please, please don't leave the cakes on the counter" pleads one note. Another simply says: "Josh Rocks". The well known scrawl of another gives specifications for a particular order and adds "if you don't get this note, let me know." I open the door. It's dark in there too.

I wander down to the dish pit. It's seen better days. I firmly believe in the existence of only one dishwasher. He is the only one I've ever seen actually washing dishes. There are rumours of others. I say bosh. I arrive at 4am. I arrive when it's dark. I arrive before the bread. If there are such things as "other dishwashers" they most certainly do not wash dishes. They play with dishes. I look at the scene, and I imagine a score of fifteen year old boys with toothy grins flinging plastic containers and mixing bowls with glee. Tomato sauce coats one wall and just above me there is a small stack of dishes acting as though they had been washed and left to dry. I don't even have to look a second time. It's a trap. The mythical "dish players" only wash dishes that can be stacked and arranged in such a way as to create lethal weapons.

The ovens are dark. They are empty and cold. I turn them on. There are four. I don't always turn them on. About half of the time I forget. Then the bread has to wait for the ovens. Then the sun waits for the ovens and the bread. But I'll make the bread.


Thursday, November 06, 2003

Got One In The Oven

In God's kindness, it appears that I'm to be a father in the not so distant future. I've seen the first picture of my offspring, and I'm already thoroughly impressed. The baby, as of a few weeks ago had an energetic heart beat, and it's heart was doing its thing outside its body. Go figure. Jenny is due at the beginning of June, which is just as school is letting out. The other Atlas teacher, Tim Griffith, is also working on becoming a father around the same time. So we're in for some exciting days at the end of the year. Do keep us in you prayers, particularly Jenny and the baby. She's actually doing quite well, just tired and occasionally a bit woozy. But not too bad really. I think the thing that makes her the most sick is thinking about names. That's hard work.


Saturday, November 01, 2003

All Saints & Luther

I've long wondered whether there was any significance to Martin Luther's posting of his 95 theses on the eve of All Saints Day (All Hallows Eve). I still have no conclusive evidence, but I ran across at least the possibility of a more fulfilling story this afternoon while reading Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs by Francis X. Weiser. All Saints was a feast day established originally by Pope Boniface IV in 606. About two hundred years later, the date was moved from May 1 to November 1 cheifly because of the influx of people to Rome for the feast each year. There was far more food and prosperity at the end of the harvest than in the Spring. At any rate, in addition to this memorial feast, Abbot Father Odilo of Cluny established the celebration of the Faithful Departed or All Souls in 1048 for the Benedictines of his community. The feast was to be held on November 2nd, the day after All Saints. The practice soon spread to other communities of Benedictines and Carthusians, and by the 14th century it was firmly engrained in the fabric of the European church. All Souls, however, was from its inception concerned with those faithfully departed saints particularly in need of our prayers and masses to merit them grace to enter heaven. All Souls has long been concerned for souls in purgatory. Thus the church authorized the issue of special indulgences on All Saints and All Souls, along with various other grave rites and special masses for the souls in purgatory. All that to say, it would make great sense then for Martin Luther to post his theses on the day before All Saints as his concern was rightly directed at the abuses of grace, indulgences, and various other practices and assumptions central to the celebration of All Souls Day. And in God's kindness, Reformation Day is a great precurser to All Saints and All Souls. Luther was instrumental to the renewing and reforming of those feasts of the church, if not in fact, at least in deed. Luther's insistence on the priesthood of all believers (All Saints) and the meritorious work of Christ (All Souls) as central to gospel are a wonderful thematic preface to these historic feasts of the church. By the way, if November 2nd falls on a Sunday (as it does this year) the celebration is postponed until Monday the 3rd which just so happens to be my birthday. So get yourself a German beer or two and have a three day holiday.