Monthly Archives: March 2010

That’s Not Music

I’ve just been subjected to someone named ‘Usher’ on American Idol and have to say that the guy can’t sing.  He was awful.  He was terrible!  Why is he famous?  That’s not music, it’s verbal vomit.  Now I need to listen to a couple of hours of Mozart and Haydn just to get that bad musical taste out of my mind.

The things that pass for music these days…  Either people don’t really like it and they just pretend to in order to be ‘in’ or they really are unbelievably shallow.

He’s Not Intellectually Stimulating Because He’s Not Intellectually Honest

Chris Brady likes John Hobbins.  I do too, as a person.  He’s quite polite and very tall and so you have to like him or he might crush you.  But as an intellect, for me, he leaves a lot to be desired.

Chris writes

My only goal in this post was to remind folks that John has one of the best biblioblogs worth reading, Ancient Hebrew Poetry. A recent post on the “absurdity of minimalism” is a great example.

No, it isn’t. Here’s what John wrote, that Chris quotes-

Viewed in this light [that if we applied the same standard to any other historical epochs or figures], minimalism is quite simply absurd. It is a debunking enterprise gone viral. In controlled quantities, like chemotherapy, minimalism has its uses. At high dosage levels, it becomes lethal, and does in the patient – the goal, no doubt, of some committed minimalists.

‘Minimalism’ hasn’t gone viral. Few people even know what it is or what it’s after (as illuminated in a glaring way in Megan’s recent go at it over at Bible and Interpretation). And comparing it to chemotherapy is just grossly absurd. So is suggesting that it can be lethal. Really, John, Chris? Really? Lethal? Minimalism kills people? Ok, name one. Name one person, either of you, killed by minimalism… I’ll wait.

Finally, when John suggests that killing people is the goal of minimalism he betrays his lack of intellectual rigor more clearly than in any other posting. He either knows he’s lying (!) or he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Either way, such language isn’t intellectually stimulating, it’s just dishonest. It’s an attempt to paint ‘minimalism’ in a negative light. That’s all. It’s the construction of a straw man which John then sets ablaze and Chris tosses on a bit of gas just for the fun of it.

I like John. But I disagree with him because he’s just not telling the truth. And I like Chris (he’s affable, and tall as well). But I think he’s got his own reasons for cheering John on. Maybe it’s because they are both tall and sport facial hair.

So now I’m off to await word of the victims of minimalism… The ‘holocaust’ that the enterprise has set in motion. Oh minimalism, where are your millions, your tens of thousands, your thousands, your hundreds, your tens, or even your one?  If John is right then surely we need to erect a memorial to your countless victims…

David Ker’s New Hobby…

He doesn’t post as much as he used to, because he’s been busy training.

Ker is the Red Head...

Anyway, that’s why he’s been so quiet.

More Pastoral Misconduct: The Drugster Pastor-ette

An assistant pastor at a Mount Vernon church faces a series of drug charges after authorities said she tried to forge drug prescriptions and was found with hundreds of pills that did not belong to her. Some members of AOH Church of God are upset that Bertha Y. Wright did not tell them about her arrest earlier this month in Florida, said Michael Williams, who has belonged to the church his entire adult life. “I want to see them (church officials) remove this pastor,” Williams said.

Of course she should be removed. There’s no question about that.

“They’re preaching and praying, but they’re not talking and telling the truth,” Williams said. “And that’s wrong. Don’t preach and tell us to live right, and you ain’t living right.”   Williams said he learned about Bertha Wright’s arrest Sunday, when someone from an AOH church in Pensacola notified members of the Mount Vernon church.

It is wrong.  It’s hypocrisy.  It’s a wolf in the guise of a sheep.  Expulsion from the flock is the only proper course.

I Suppose It’s A Fair Question: Are All Christians Militia Members?

A Muslim, Yasmin Mogahed, quite correctly writes

Hutaree means “Christian Warrior,” yet the American public is not likely to blame Christianity. And Homeland Security probably isn’t going to single out all people with Christian names in the airport security line. The FBI most likely isn’t going to start wire-tapping Churches and Christian homes, and it’s unlikely that the whole world will be expecting every peace-loving Christian to apologize for actions they had nothing to do with — just because it was done in their name.

That’s very true. It’s also true what he writes next:

Unfortunately, these rules do not apply to Muslims. When a Muslim commits a crime, the Quran goes on trial. For example, after the failed “Christmas bombing,” a January Wall Street Journal piece highlighted the fact that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had studied at the San’a Institute for Arabic Language. “He knew how to read and write in Arabic because he had learned to read the Quran being a Muslim, but his speaking abilities were very limited,” recalls Mohammed Al-Anisi, the institute’s director. Abdulmutallab may have also studied French poetry as a student, but that probably wouldn’t have been considered relevant to his crime. The study of the Quran and Arabic, on the other hand, seems to be.

All Muslims are no more terrorists than all Christians are members of a loony militia group. In the name of fairness and truth, it’s time for Christians to realize this.

That Town in California…

Rancho Cucamonga has decided to leave the folk having Bible Study in their home alone.

Rancho Cucamonga has withdrawn a demand that a home Bible study group get a permit or shut down. Linda Courtney with the Building and Safety Department says Tuesday that it was a misunderstanding and the order was rescinded last week after officials met with the pastor. A neighbor’s complaint that up to 60 people were gathering at his home on Friday nights prompted the city to send a letter to the pastor of Shiloh Tabernacle Church. It said he was operating a church in his home and needed to obtain a costly conditional use permit by Good Friday or shut down. The letter raised an uproar in the conservative San Bernardino County town and the potential of a court fight. But Courtney says the city has decided the Friday meetings are just Bible studies and can continue.

What did they think they were, drug manufacturing meetings??? It was a silly complaint from a silly complainer that stirred the city to its silly action. Now they’ve come to their senses. So good for them.

A Darwin Award Nominee

This ‘rail surfer’…  Well, you’ll see why he should be a nominee for the Darwins.

Why Is College So Expensive?

Because aside from having to pay for books and Professors and facilities, you have to pay for (by means of fees and other such trickeries) the latest bit of techno goop.  Yes, you pay, even when you’re told it’s ‘free’.

So, for example, parents funding their kids at Seton Hall can revel in the fact that

Seton Hall announced a program on Tuesday that offers an iPad to every full-time student. Distribution will begin in the fall. Incoming freshmen will also receive a 13-inch MacBook laptop, which Seton Hill will replaced after two years; current sophomores, juniors, and seniors can opt into that program. The iPad distribution marks the beginning of the university’s Griffin Technology Advantage Program, which will also include a completely wireless campus, quadrupled bandwith, and faculty training in advanced technologies. Students will be charged an additional $500 per semester in fees for the new technology program, and the university says it has absorbed the cost of the iPads.

Oh yes, they absorbed it all right.  And parents will pay it one way or the other.  Why do the kids need another tech-bit?  Because college isn’t so much about learning to think anymore, it’s about learning to operate gadgets that do the thinking for you.  And pretending it’s a good thing.

But of course the kids are just following the lead of many of their Profs, who don’t prepare lectures anymore so as to disseminate facts and details, they put together glitzy powerpoints to hold the little darlings miniscule attention spans.  They entertain.

That’s why college is so expensive- it’s entertainment.  A four year (0r longer) festival of ‘watching’ stuff on a screen.  And as we all know, entertainment costs a lot!

Your Dose of Zwingli For Today

If you are even remotely familiar with Zwingli’s works you’ll know that his earliest were ‘The Fable of the Ox’ and ‘The Labyrinth’.  And if you’ve read those pieces you’ll also know that without considerable guidance, they don’t make much sense (because they are steeped in imagery familiar to a 16th century Swiss, not a 21st century European or American or Australian).

Fortunately there’s help. Zur Erklärung und Zeitbestimmung der Gedichte Zwinglis vom Ochsen und vom Labyrinth by H. Kesselring was published in 1902 and still serves as the standard ‘commentary’ on these texts.

Good, He Won’t Pay

Yesterday I mentioned the idiotic court order directing the father of a dead Marine to pay lawyer fees for Fred Phelps and his depraved band of hatemongers.  Today word that the father will in fact not pay.

The father of a Marine killed in Iraq whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters told Fox News he will defy a court order and not pay the protesters’ appeal costs. Albert Snyder, of York, Pa., told Fox News he does not intend to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps, the leader of Kansas’ Westboro Baptist Church, which held protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006. “I don’t think I’m going to be writing a check until I hear from the Supreme Court,” Snyder told Fox News on Tuesday. “I’m not about to pay them anything.”

Good. He shouldn’t. And I’m not the only one who thinks the court bungled more than badly.

Outraged that the father of a dead Marine was ordered to pay some court costs incurred by a group he had sued for picketing his son’s funeral, people from across the country have launched a grass-roots fundraising effort to help the grieving family. “I was appalled,” said Sally Giannini, a 72-year-old retired bookkeeper from Spokane, Wash., who had called The Baltimore Sun after seeing an article about the court decision against Albert Snyder. “I believe in free speech, but this goes too far.”

It isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech. And it isn’t protected under the first amendment.

Churches Are Still Suffering From Economic Woe

Nearly 40 percent of US Christian churches saw a drop in offerings from their flock last year, according to a survey on contributions compiled by the group Christianity Today International. “For the first time in consecutive years there is a notable decline for a significant number of churches,” said Matt Branaugh, one of the report authors. Branaugh, editor of “Your Church magazine” — part of the CTI group — told AFP that one of the most important factors in the drop in donations was increased unemployment.

While 40% are seeing lower offerings, 60% aren’t. Hopefully when the bank bailouts turn the economy around like they’re supposed to…. oh wait, that didn’t work. Sorry.

Anyway, hang on.  Don’t worry about what you don’t have.  Be happy that no matter how little you have, you still have more than most of the rest of the world.

The End Is Near…

The end, that is, of your opportunity to pass along the most scintillating and mind bending biblioblog posts of March.  The March Carnival (#LII) goes live at 12:01 a.m. on April 1.

If you haven’t read any good posts, just pass along whatever you like.  I’m sure to ignore your advice anyway…


Signs of the Times…


Another Digital Collection

Which will prove quite useful to quite a large number of people is this one.

Violence Isn’t Really Violent If You Smile At it Nicely…

“Maybe the violence of the Bible isn’t a problem to be solved but rather an invitation to a conversation.” The quote was voiced after a session of the “Violence and the Bible” seminar I’m teaching this semester. Keith, an insightful Doctor of Ministry student, was reflecting on the powerful things the difficult texts of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament have encouraged—even compelled—the class to discuss over the past six weeks.

So begins the latest installment in a series of articles Julia has written for Bible and Interpretation. Nearly to the end Julia observes

To be honest, most students in the seminar have liked the “fixes.” They breathed a sigh of relief after learning that Joshua might not really have annihilated the Canaanites and after Lapsley suggested that viewing Judges 19 as legitimating rape is a misinterpretation. Many confessed that they enrolled in the class desperate for any historical, literary, or theological insights that would allow them to keep believing that the Bible is indeed the Good Book.

Why is it, I wonder, that we modern Christians are so consumed with getting God off the hook? Why do we feel compelled to explain or explain away those bits of the Old Testament that make us uncomfortable? And why isn’t the violence of the Cross ever viewed in the same way? That is, why does no one attempt to explain away the really remarkable fact that on the Cross Jesus dies, most violently, at the behest of God?!

Why are we so apologetic? What if God wishes to destroy the wicked? What is that to us? And why – when Christ is utterly destroyed on the cross in our place, do we not comprehend the magnificence of this sacrifice? This grand exchange? ‘He took our place’ as the recipient of a righteous God’s righteous thrashing.

Julia concludes

But in the process of working with these texts I believe we’re beginning to think differently about what the Bible is good for. Instead of asking what the Bible teaches about violence, we’re experiencing how it encourages us to interrogate and reflect on the contemporary world. We’re finding that the Bible can be meaningful even when—and perhaps precisely when– it doesn’t fit our standards of morality.

She’s absolutely right in her last sentence. I would take it one step further and insist that our morality doesn’t shape God’s behavior. God owes us neither explanation nor excuse. He’s God, and you aren’t. Stop pretending that you are, and that you’re owed an answer for your paltry finite questions.  There are, let’s be honest, plenty of reasons for God to be pretty unhappy with his creatures.  Read a newspaper.

The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology

The always awesomely kind folk at Hendrickson have sent along a copy of John Ronning’s new volume, The Jewish Targums and John’s Logos Theology.  You can download a pdf of the table of contents and the intro as well as chapter one.  According to the publisher

John Ronning makes a case that the Jewish Targums—interpretive translations of the Old Testament into Aramaic that were read in synagogues—hold the key to understanding John’s Logos title. Examining numerous texts in the fourth gospel in the light of the Targums, Ronning shows how connecting the Logos with the targumic Memra (word) unlocks the meaning of a host of theological themes that run throughout the Gospel of John.

Your Dose of Zwingli for Today

Pamela Biel writes, in discussing Zwingli’s view of idols, quoting him,

“man die bild nit solle machen, man solle sy nit anbetten, man solle sy ouch nit eeren…”

Not only does the cult of the saints not appear in the Bible, but when the Bible does mention images they are condemned. Zwingli conflates the cult of the saints with its prime manifestation, images of saints, and called the two “abgötterei”, idolatry or that which turns people away from God. Zwingli primarily objected to the cult for this very reason: it turns people away from Christ.

She continues, again citing Zwingli

Ich hab vor 8. oder 9- jaren ein trostlich gedieht gelesen des hochgelerten Erasmi von Roterdam, an den herren Jesum geschriben, darinn sich Jesus klagt, das man nit alles güts by im sucht, so er doch ein brunn sye alles guten, ein heilmacher, trost und schätz der seel, mit vil schönen Worten. Hie hab ich gedacht: Nun ist es ie also. Warumb suchend wir denn hilff by der creatur? Und wiewol ich darnebend andre carmina oder gsang bim eegenanten Erasmo fand an sant Annen, s. Michaelen und andre, darinn er die, zu denen er schreib, als fürmünder anrüfft, hat doch dasselb mich nit mögen bringen von der erkantnus, das Christus unser armen seelen ein eyniger schätz sye .. .

Since Zwingli thought that the cult of the saints focused the Christian’s attention on something other than Christ, it had to be eliminated.

Her’s is a fine essay very much worth reading. That’s your dose of Zwingli for today.

My Letter to ABC’s Good Morning America Concerning the ‘Face of Jesus’ Segment

It’s a real shame that ABC is promoting, knowingly or unknowingly an account that simply is historically impossible.  The Shroud of Turin can no more be the burial shroud of Jesus than it can be the burial shroud of Ronald Reagan.

There are significant reasons why this is the case, some of which I have outlined here:

Furthermore, rather than interviewing only graphic artists and computer programmers, ABC should have interviewed someone like Antonio Lombatti who really has researched the Shroud in incredible detail and who knows that it cannot be what ‘The Face of Jesus?’ claims it to be.

You’ve simply spread misinformation and half truths.  Regrettably.

Sent to ABC this morning at 8:23.

I Wouldn’t Do It. They Could Toss Me In Prison And I Still Wouldn’t Do It

The father of a Marine killed in Iraq and whose funeral was picketed by anti-gay protesters was ordered to pay the protesters’ appeal costs, his lawyers said Monday. On Friday, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ordered Snyder to pay $16,510 to Fred Phelps. Phelps is the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, which conducted protests at Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder’s funeral in 2006.

I wouldn’t pay the hatemongers a penny. I wouldn’t do it and I wouldn’t care what the joke of a court said about it. If someone mocked my daughter at her funeral and I sued them for it, I’d be ok if I lost the suit. But I wouldn’t pay one red penny to the people who showed such utter contempt for the life of another.

The Snyder family is seeking donations to help them continue their suit.  I hope they get 60 gazillion dollars and then hire a full time team of protesters to protest Phelps and his group every waking moment of their miserable sub-christian sub-human lives.

Too many courts in the United States don’t have a clue about what justice is.  Not a clue.

A History of Christianity: The First 3000 Years, on DVD

With thanks to Diarmaid MacCulloch for telling me about this-

A History of Christianity: The First 3000 Years is the DVD presentation based on the author’s very new book.

The set consists of 6 discs at an hour each.

A History of Christianity, a six-part series presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch, an Oxford history professor whose books about Cranmer and the Reformation have been acclaimed as masterpieces. A History Of Christianity will reveal the true origins of Christianity and delve into what it means to be a Christian. Intelligent, thought-provoking and magisterial in its scope the series will uncover how a small Jewish sect that preached humility became the biggest religion in the world. Most Christian histories start with St Paul’s mission to Rome, but Diarmaid MacCulloch argues that the first Christianity stayed much closer to its Middle-Eastern roots. He describes not only the main ideas and personalities of Christian history, its organization and spirituality, but how it has changed politics, sex, and human society.

The book is fantastic.  Doubtless the DVD series will be quite useful for Church groups or study groups.  It’s also available from Amazon for a few dollars less.