Daily Archives: 25 Oct 2012

Being a Drunk Doesn’t Make You Charming or Funny, It Makes You Dull and Tragic

I read this excellent piece after Dan Stoddart pointed it out on G+.  It commences thusly:

Britain is the only country known to me in which drunkenness is an ideology: that is to say in which people believe in an abstract way that, in getting drunk, they are doing good to themselves and performing an almost philanthropic service. The mass public drunkenness that appals foreigners when they come to our shores is actually thought by young drunks to be a form individual therapy and social prophylaxis rolled into one.

Alas- sadly, Britain isn’t the only country in which drunkenness is an ideology: visit the South.  Here, it’s virtually a religion.

Mutatis mutandis, what our gifted writer says of Britain’s drunkards could be said of America’s.

Firestorms of Doubt

Every now and again, like a bolt out of the blue and for no apparent reason, I’ll be stricken by the thought:

When you die, you’ll just be dead.

It’s a bit of a disconcerting slice of doubt but there it is.  Now I’m sure that I’m not alone in experiencing this sort of firestorm of doubt.  I’m fairly sure, in fact, that most Christian folk think that thought.  The problem isn’t the thought (or as Luther so colorfully put it- ‘thought’s are like birds; you can’t keep them from flying over your head, but you can certainly stop them from building a nest in your hair’) – the problem is what to do with it.

There are those, we all will admit, that give in to despair and who abandon faith and falter at the smallest drop of difficult thought.  Others manage to shove the thought aside, sublimating it and never really facing it.

I’m not a member of either of those tribes.  My response to that little blotch of unpleasantness is to face it square in the eye and remind it that frail human reason (my own included) can’t claim to have a corner on all truth; that there are truths and realities greater than ourselves and the fact that we can’t fully grasp them doesn’t change the fact that they are and that they are true realities.

I suppose my biggest problem with the angry atheists and their ilk is that they actually believe that their paltry, puny, faltering, miserable, lowly, miniscule, tiny, unwhole, incomplete, slatheringly low-browed intellects are the final arbiter of truth and reality.  What hubris.  What foolishness!  Indeed, in their pretended ‘knowledge’ they become the greatest of all fools.  In fact, their self-exaltation is nothing less than the exaltation of a worm to the throne of the Universe as its ruler and potentate.

For myself, the elevation of the amoeba to the Lordship of the Universe is too great an absurdity.  I prefer the truth of the father in the Gospel who, when confronted with the power of Jesus declares

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

That, and that alone, is the only cure for the firestorm of doubt when it rages.

The Full Text of My ‘Reformation Day’ Post

The good folk at Logos asked if I might write a brief piece on the Reformers in preparation for ‘Reformation Day’ (next Wednesday, so say the Lutherans).  They published my piece yesterday, in an edited version (shortened).  Naturally they are free to edit as they see fit and I’m happy enough with the result.

Nonetheless- here’s the full piece:

‘Reformation Day?  No!’

‘The Reformation’ is a misnomer if ever there were one, for in fact there was no ‘one’ Reformation any more than there was just one Reformer. ‘The Reformation’, when used by students and the general public, usually refers to the Reformation of Martin Luther which commenced at the end of October in the year of our Lord, 1517.

Even then, though, Luther’s intent wasn’t as earth-shattering as later ages took it to be. For Luther, the placement of a series of theses in Latin on the Church Door at Wittenberg Castle was nothing more than an invitation to debate. In other words, Luther didn’t see his act as the commencement of a revolution; he saw it as an academic exercise.

‘The Reformation’ is, then, little more than a label derived from historical hindsight gazing mono-focularly at a series of events over a period of time across a wide geographical landscape. Each Reformer had roots sunk in fertile ground and their work was simply the coming to fruition of generations of shift in the Roman Catholic Church.

Hence, it would be more appropriate to speak of ‘Reformations’ in the same way that we now speak of ‘Judaisms’ and ‘Christianities’. The Reformation was no monolith.

Who, then were the Reformers who gave birth to the Reformations most closely associated with them? They were Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, in just that order.

In 1515 while he was Pastor of the village Church in Glarus, Huldrych Zwingli began to call into question the dependence of the Church on the teachings of the Scholastics. He also questioned the value of the Vulgate for preaching and began earnest study of the Greek New Testament. There, memorizing the letters of Paul (in Greek) he discovered the Gospel which would come to feature so prominently in his Reforming efforts: Salvation is by grace, through faith, and not through works as proclaimed by the Scholastic theologians. By 1519, when he moved to Zurich to become the Pastor of the Great Minster, Zwingli was already well on his way to Reforming the worship of the Church and the administration of the ‘Sacraments’. In short order, within a few years, the Mass was abandoned and replaced by the ‘Lord’s Supper’ and the fixation of the Church on images was denounced and those images removed in due course.

Zwingli’s Reformation was carried out with the cooperation of the City government, which is why Zwingli, along with Luther and Calvin, were to be known to history as ‘Magisterial Reformers’. Not because they were ‘Magisterial’ but because each had the support of their city’s magistrates.

North of Zurich, in Wittenberg, Luther’s Reformatory efforts were coming to full steam around the same time. In 1520 he broke with Rome irrevocably with the publication of his stunning ‘On The Babylonian Captivity of the Church’. From there, there was to be no turning back. And here we must remind ourselves that at this juncture Luther was not dependent on the work of Zwingli, nor was Zwingli dependent on the work of Luther. Both were pursuing reform along parallel tracks, separately.

Further to the West of Switzerland a decade later John Calvin, an exile from France, a lawyer by training and a theologian by training and desire, began his own efforts at Reform. Several years after Zwingli’s death and long after Luther’s demise Calvin plodded away in Geneva attempting manfully to bring that raucous city to heel under the power of the Gospel.

Each of these Reformers were ‘Fathers’ of their own Reformation. Each was, originally, independent of the other and in many ways they tried very hard to retain that independence even when their common foe, the Church of Rome, was the target as their common enemy. Each contributed to ‘The Reformation’ in their own unique way.

If, then, we wish to honor their memory and their efforts, it behooves us to set aside our preconceptions or our beliefs that ‘The Reformation’ began on October 31, 1517. It didn’t. It began in 1515 in Glarus. And it began in 1517 in Wittenberg. And it began in Geneva in 1536.

Happy Reformations Days.

Billy Graham Has Sold His Birthright For a Bowl of Political Porridge

His support of the Republican nominee has blinded him to the nature of his life-held theology and I for one think it’s a real shame.  Like so very many ‘Evangelicals’, Graham has shown himself to be willing to exalt political expediency above theology.  What impropriety lurks in the hearts of the politically motivated.  Even in one the likes of Billy Graham.

Accordingly, I’m with Samuel.

The Rev. Samuel Wynn admired Billy Graham and his evangelistic association for decades, joining its spiritual crusades and urging fellow Christians to do the same. But no more.

“I will never again support anything by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,” said Wynn, the superintendent of a United Methodist Church district in Fayetteville, N.C.

The source of Wynn’s ire: The BGEA’s recent removal of language on its website calling Mormonism a “cult.”

The scrubbing followed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s pilgrimage to Billy Graham’s mountaintop home in Montreat, N.C. After the Oct. 11 meeting, Graham pledged to “do all I can to help” Romney, according to a campaign aide.

The BGEA said it cut the “cult” language “because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

But Wynn and other conservative Christians accuse Graham of putting partisanship above piety and risking Christian souls to help Romney, a Mormon, win the White House.

“My question to Billy Graham is, What’s more important for the kingdom of God: politics or the message of Jesus Christ?” said Wynn.

Yes Billy, what matters more to you?  Politics or theology?  I think we all see the answer now.  No need to tell us.

Total Depravity: The Jock Who Plagiarized 11 Year Olds…

From UNC the news that one of their football players, one Erik Highsmith, plagiarized the work of four 11 year olds...  UNC must have tough standards for its football players if the work of an 11 year old can be passed off as sufficient…

Senior wide receiver Erik Highsmith committed plagiarism on a blog for a communications class he took last spring, according to the report, and the source material he used just so happened to be a piece on chickens written on an education Web site… by four 11-year-olds.

As Dan Kane of the News & Observer reported:

Instructor J. Nikol Beckham said she spotted the plagiarism and reported it to the academic support program for student athletes. By then, an NCAA investigation had turned up numerous examples of a tutor providing improper help to football players, and Beckham was concerned the plagiarism went beyond Highsmith and her class.

“I suggested that they consider that this isn’t an isolated incident,” she said, “and I expressed my disappointment considering everything that had been going on for the last year. And I received a great deal of assurances that it would be handled.”

The four investigations into academic fraud at UNC-CH are largely focused on classes within the African and Afro-American Studies Department that never met. But another theme is also emerging as more becomes known about the school work: football players cutting and pasting from various sources to fulfill written assignments.

In Highsmith’s case, Beckham said someone at the academic support program told her they would talk to the student, “but after that, I never heard anything.” She has since left the university to teach at a community college in central Virginia.

Beckham also discovered that another entry from Highsmith lifted passages from an essay on the SAT and GRE prep Web site, urch.com.

What absurd behavior.  University ‘student’?  Hardly.  More like lazy, unmotivated, feckless git.  But such is the culture of big time college sports.  Via Tom Bolin on the FB.

If You Don’t Want to go to Jezreel, Go to Gath

The 2013 application is online here.

Information (click to download)

Forms (click to download)

Note on Forms:  In order for your registration to be fully processed you must download the above forms, correctly fill them out, and upload them to your application. See instructions on page 7 of the application. It is highly recommended that the applicant fill out the above forms before beginning the application.

2013 TELL ES-SAFI/GATH PARTICIPANT APPLICATION

Etc. and for more information, go to the link at the top of this post.

Are Bodybuilders ‘Works of Art’?

NZZ has a really interesting essay on the phenomenon of bodybuilding and bodybuilders as ‘art’.  Give it a read here.  It ends

Würden die Bodybuilder aber eine neue Sektion der Art Basel bespielen, zum Beispiel unter dem Motto «Fleischhauerei», so ginge ein alter avantgardistischer Traum in Erfüllung: Kunst erschiene nicht länger nur als bourgeoiser Fetisch, sondern auch als Ästhetik der Existenz.

Call me skeptical but I don’t think this pursuit qualifies as art.  But it might…

The Jezreel Expedition

If you’d like to participate in a dig, Jezreel might interest you:

Registration will open in mid-November

The 4 week season (19/5 to 15/6) includes a full daily program, including weekend trips and 3 credits from the University of Evansville — $2,950

The 2 week sessions (19/5 to 1/6 or 2/6 to 15/6) includes a shorter version of the full program and 2 UE credits — $1,850.

We are guests of Kibbutz Yizre’el. Our buildings have full A/C and WiFi.   Four beds to a room. Three meals a day inc weekends. Swimming pool, laundry service and a great atmosphere.

Today With Zwingli

Roughly one year before Zwingli’s death a Synod was held at which the citizens of Wetzikon considered adoption of Reformed theology. Held on the 25th and 26th of October, 1530 the protocol of that Synod was published in Zurich by Zwingli’s publisher shortly afterwards: Notizen aus dem Antrag der Synode betreffend den Pfarrer von Wetzikon.

Acta synodi anno 1530 diebus Martis et Mercurij 25. et 26. octobris Tiguri celebratę. Verordneten vonn rät: die ersamen meister Hans Ochßner, Caspar Nasall, Cuonrat Gul, Hans Hab. M. Uorich Zwinglj, D. Engelhart, M. Leo, presbyteri eclesiarum Tigurinarum, monasterij maioris, minoris et S. Petri.

It’s brief but enlightening. Here, just shortly before his untimely death, Zwingli is continuing to lead in the spread of the Reformation. He is THE theological authority of Switzerland and his viewpoint matters more than any other. In a word, his influence was tremendous. (This in spite of the fact that some have suggested that the apex of his influence was in 1528).

Ban Football?

Here in the South you’d have more luck banning God, guns, ATVs, and Momma than you would in banning football.

After love of money, football is the chief religion of the South.  Hundreds of thousands will gather in the ‘temple’ of the stadium exposed to any kind of weather mother nature can muster to watch their boys run up and down patting each other on the backside and passing around an oddly shaped spheroid.

Ban that which engenders more loyalty than God himself?  As if…

The agenda for the Oct. 1 school board meeting did not call for anything particularly exciting. But during a segment called “Matters of Interest,” Paul Butler, a retired doctor and relative newcomer to the board, floated an idea: end the football program at Dover High School.

They would have grabbed him by the neck and dragged him to the Courthouse yard and strung him up down in these parts.

Freedom as Gift of God

The ending of a very fine series, worth seeing.