Sunday, September 30, 2007

Creators

“Stem Cell Research, I am sorry for those horrible things I said…yes, yes I love you. I want you back.”

“Cloning! You are right, I miss you. My mistress? It’s over. She scares me. Take my DNA, please I am yours.”

Holy Crap! How I wish that current bio ethical controversies still involved the first loves of the nineties personified above. Our current lover is much too frightening…more than the corniness employed in this post’s introduction. Read THIS.

I am not a scientist; I am no geneticist—but still I have to ask why? To fight greenhouses gasses and toxic waste? If efficiency is a variable in science (Occam's Razor), why create what can be found, or at least manipulated from what can be found?

If I had to guess, and my ego gives me no other option, our buddies at Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution and Harvard Medical school are hanging the juicy carrot of “ecological repair” to distract us from the unfortunate truth that I believe is at the root of their research, a truth that drives not only ethic bending science, but also tyrrany, displays of power, wars, etc.—“because I can.”

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Memoirs of a Geisha

Yesterday I wrote about Rome, tonight I write about Japan...hardly.

While in high school I took four years of Japanese as my foreign language. Unfortunately, I remember very little besides a few basic statements, the classroom experiences, and the occasional dream in which the floodgates of repressed subconscious are released in a torrent bilingual bliss.

Nearly ten years removed from the initial learning experience, I have to say, there is still a place in my heart for the Japanese language and culture--the ethnic pride, the commitment to progression at every level, and the fastidious love for the rich history and tradition that set this people group apart.

Tonight I watched the movie Memoirs of a Geisha. Skeptical before the first scene graced the screen, within a few moments I was hooked. The story, the setting, the historical representation, the character, the cast...all made this a great experience. For a disinterested pop culture bystander, this was Hollyweird at its best. As the cliche love story came to a close the tears in the aspiring Geisha's eyes seemed more than legit.

At one point in the movie the Geisha is taught to use sexual persuasion to boost her popularity, enticing her companion with her sexuality by subtly exposing the her wrist--flashing some skin. Man, I wish that was today's standard for sexual temptation. The movie itself depended on story telling rather than boob shots, death, or overused actors.

So, if you are going to rent a movie from the movie machine in your local supermarket like my wife did, check Memoirs of a Geisha out.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Romerica" or America, the Reincarnation of Rome

The period of Roman expansion began in the 3rd century BCE—but the height of their magnificent imperialism was cresting immediately proceeding and occurring during the life of history’s most famous carpenter, Jesus Christ. One cannot possibly begin to understand Jesus and His message without first familiarizing themselves with the religious/historical/political culture into which he was born.

As I was getting to know this setting via L. Michael White’s From Jesus to Christianity, I felt a strange connection with this ancient force. After contemplation, I realized I knew the Roman Empire in reincarnated form…America. I was excited. Keep in mind, I am no historian. So seeing this correlation was exciting to me. But alas, the bubble burst in conversation with a friend. As I shared my “findings,” my friend pointed out that a book had already been written on the subject—the book (unread by this blogger) will be the first book tackled by the up-and-coming Ivan’s Book club (see previous post).

A few initial observations:
The Romans insisted upon occupation of the “world.” The Greek term for the Roman Empire was oikoumene—lit. world. The US has more embassies than any other nation. Our present is felt nearly everywhere under the auspice of “keeping the peace,” rather than, “imperialism.”
The Romans allowed and encouraged syncretism of seemingly contradictory cultures (art, language, religion). Had the term “melting pot” existed at the dawn of the first millennia, the Romans would have cherished and employed as national policy.
Nothing solidified the correlation more than Roman foreign policy; at least the public portrayal thereof. What follows is an example of one of many inscriptions prominent throughout the Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus. These inscriptions were found on statues of the great leader. Consider them, “political ad campaigns,” or “the Emperor’s address to the nation,” in ancient form:

On land and sea I undertook wars, both civil and foreign,
throughout the whole world, and when victorious I spared all citizens who sued for pardon. Foreign nations what could safely be pardoned I preferred to save rather than destroy.

When I returned from Spain and Gaul, in the consulship
of Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius, after successful operations in those provinces, the senate voted in honor of my return the consecration of an altar to Pax Augustus in the
Campus Martius, and on this altar if ordered the magistrates and priests and Vestal Virgins to make annual sacrifice.
[The temple of] Janus Quirinus (gate keeper of “times’, so to speak) which our ancestors ordered to be closed whenever there was peace, secured by victory, throughout the whole imperium of
the Roman people on land and sea, and which, before my birth is recorded to have been closed but twice since
the very foundation of the city, the senate ordered closed three times while I was princeps.
I extended the boundaries of all the provinces that were
bordered by races not yet subject to our imperium. The
provinces of the Gauls, Spain, and Germany I reduced to a state of peace
.
The Alps I brought to state of peace without waging unjust
war on any tribe.
When I had extinguished the flames of civil
war
, after receiving by universal consent the absolute control
of public affairs
, I transformed the republic from my own control the
will of the senate and Roman people
. For this service I was given decree of the senate title Augustus, and the doorposts
of my house were covered with laurels by public act, and a civic crown was fixed above my door, and a
golden shield was placed in the curia Julia, the inscription on which
testified that the senate and roman people gave me this
recognition in honor of my valor, my clemency, my justice, and my
piety.
(White, 43-44)

Wow. Read this. Reread this. Preemptive strikes to secure world peace and democracy? Stepping in to settle foreign civil wars? Extending boundaries unselfishly (enculturation of foreign races for their own good—for peace?

Sounds a lot like America, post industrial revolution! What a heritage...But Rome fell.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Gypsies, Conscience, and Ivan's Book Club II

Before I get into the book club, here is a quick thought to follow up yesterday's post. In scratching the surface of a major Christian theological issue, I touched on the importance of works for any Christian. The love of mankind is secondary only to the love of the Creator, this is clear not only from the book of James, but from the representation of Jesus in the Gospels. Unfortunately the egocentristic nature in all of us overrides this social gospel, and I am as guilty as the rest. Case in point:


While in Croatia, a beautiful country recovering from a crippling civil war, I witnessed the arrival of humanitarian aid--boxes of clothes; gifts from America. The local Pastor who hosted hardly had the strength to open the boxes. "I get this all the time," he said in a disgusted and weary voice. Lifting the cardboard lid revealed the dirty, stained, moth-eaten, throw aways that not only eased the humanitarian sting of someone like me, but also provided them with a tax write-off. The pastor picked a few decent ones out of the bunch some friends in the neighboring gypsy community, and deemed the rest garbage worthy. I remember him quipping something to the effect of, "gypsies don't deserve others' garbage."





So as I drove past a Planet Earth clothes drop off box today, with piles of throw-aways next to it, I was reminded of the scripture I had read the night before, the Gypsies, and my own neglect of what it means to be a Christian and a human being. My hardworking neighbor in the Balkans deserves better. I pray to provide better.





So, now that I have left the confessional, I aim to get this book club started. Following the only suggestion provided, the first book will be Are We Rome: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America. I actually pondered the idea before the book existed (tommorrow's blog post), so I am excited. Email me (email through profile page) or leave a comment if you intend on taking part. I checked online, and the book is on the shelves of the public library here in town, so you need not go purchase it if finances do not permit. I will start a new blog, accessible under my profile page. This is a first for me, so I will play it by ear; however, I am anticipating reading the first chapter and publishing my thouhts in the form of a blog post by next Friday. I am hoping a firestorm of comments ensues. I will not publish the next post; rather, I hope that the participants will email their thoughts so that I may publish them and be given the chance to comment.





Spread the word. I doubt more than 3 or 4 will engage in the first book, but I hope for more. Include your friends, your family, your blogroll...let's engage each other, let's grow together, let's read together!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Monergism? Synergism?

I grew up under the umbrella of monergism but truly, its arguments have never satisfied me, but then again, synergism seems to be filled with many more holes. Truly over time, I believe the meaning of the terms have changed, but in a nutshell, if you are not familiar with the terms, monergism suggests God alone, in his grace, is responsible in the salvific act that reconciles man with God. Synergism, on the other hand, suggests that a cooperation of sorts exists—man plays a part in the role.

Obviously, at first glance synergism sounds heretical to a guy like me, brought up and educated under an evangelical protestant worldview—how can man, lowly man, play a part in his own salvation.

But, according to any stream of reformed theology, does God manipulate man, supernaturally taking command of his motor functions, forcing his lips to utter the confession to save his soul, that Jesus is the Son of God, the sacrificial atonement for his sins? NO! In that sense, monergism, is inadequate.

We must work (in the sense of involvement) for our salvation. Truly, Christ did the dirty work, that which we cannot…he lived a perfect life and willingly accepted a guiltless punishment. But, freewill must be considered in the equation. Jesus is not going to confess himself for us, otherwise we are mindless drones. Humankind has to take part and make that confession. So yes, I believe we are intrinsically involved in our own salvation, which is a very pre-reformation ideal:

Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one
can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning
of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for
ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the
increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even
temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with
God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer
attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. (1994 catachism)


James himself was very synergistic (chapter 2):
20 Fool! Would you not like to know that faith without deeds is
useless?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he
offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22 So you can see that his faith was
working together with his deeds; his faith became perfect by what he did.
23
In this way the scripture was fulfilled: Abraham put his faith in God, and this
was considered as making him upright; and he received the name 'friend of
God'.
24 You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that
someone is justified.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling!

A recent Newsday post brought to light yet another round of attacks between opposing parties common to pre-election campaigning. However, Newsday's focus was not the candidates but the bias of the carrier, in this case The New York times, notoriously left wing.

The Times apparently should have charged MoveOn.org $142,083.00 instead of the $64,575 deal of the lifetime they received. A disgruntled Giuliani demanded and received the same deal for his rebutle to the ad by MoveOn.

Here is where the beauty of a free market econemy and the first ammendment meet to make the Newsday article not so newsworthy. The New York Times have the freedom to publish whatever they desire per the first ammendment and have the flexibility of the free market econemy to charge what they wish. The fact that The Times gave both sides of the fence the same deal (smart move) coupled with the fact that New Yorkers have the choice of reading the right wing bias of the New York Post deems Newsdays article less controversial than they had hoped.

I am looking forward to my opportunity to help determine the course of the country in the up and coming election--don't get me wrong. But I am equally, if not more looking forward to interesting and worthwhile reporting on real issues!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ivan's Book Club

Tonight I read the first six chapters of Tony Campolo's, Letters to a Young Evangelical as part of book club I was recently invited into. After six chapters of Dr. Philesque "I understand" language, I have decided, while there are nuggets of worthwhile truths to be gleaned from the pages, I am not a big fan.

Campolo is as wishy washy as his existential, pragmatic, modernistic leanings. In his 'epistle' entitled Why We Witness (beautiful alliteration!) he begins with a critical review of public evangelical composure when faced with the dilemma of the exclusive claims of Christianity--the impetus for evangelization.

As the chapter closes, Campolo himself falls prey to the snare of modernity and leaves the reader in a cloud of ambiguity, like those whom he criticised at the start of the chapter. Is he a universalist or isn't he? He is sold out on the impetus, so I am guessing he isn't but perhaps at times he himself is just as confused.

All that to say, I have never joined a book club. I am interested to listen to everyone elses thoughts on Tuesday. Have you read the book? What are your thoughts?

Here is the real point of this post (I know, I am terrrible communicator--either that or I love the sound of my own voice, thus you had to read through all that to get to this): I would like to start a book club in the form of the blog. Each week those who wish to participate would read designated chapters. Participants would take turns writing their thoughts in form of a post (emailed to me), and the rest could respond in the form of comments.

Are you interested??? Leave a comment or email me through link on my profile page!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

30 Pounds of Compassion

Life is so organized! It amazes me when coincidental occurrences of life accommodate such smooth syncopation-i.e. this blog and its random posts.

A significant part of last night's post dealt with the Mother of Compassion, Mother Theresa, a woman whose commitment to her faith led her to an compassionate commitment to the less fortunate; the marginalized; the orphans. The following morning, compassion in its purest form smacked me in the face.

The sun was just peaking its brilliant face over the eastern horizon. I was up with our infant, Ezekiel, providing his breakfast and struggling to keep my eyes open. In effort to keep my heavy lids lifted, I turned the television set on. I had no idea what was being broadcast into my home...I was just trying to feed Ezekiel and induce him back into a state of sleep. My three year old, Aylah, had wakened and was playing with some toys at my feet.

As I fed our infant, I did notice that the program on the television was an advertisement for the organization Feed the Children. Shots of emaciated Haitian children flooded the screen, but I payed little attention--I was barely awake. Then the sweet little voice of Aylah brought me back to reality. The sweet little voice said, "That makes me sad, daddy."

I lifted my head. Surely Aylah had not said that! As I attempted to replay her words in my head, it made more sense that she was simply commentating on the ghostly figure of an underfed and near-death figure of a small Haitian boy. She must have said, "that boy is sad, daddy."

So I asked her, "Aylah, what did you say?"

She may as well have said nothing. I turned to her and saw that her little three year old faced was puckered with sorrow. But she replied, "That makes me sad, daddy."

Sweet empathy! I would not have thought it possible that such a built-in love for humanity could surface in a three year old--my three year old--as compassion so strong so as to evoke such a stirring emotional response.

As I fell asleep last night my thoughts were centered around the deep rooted compassion of an elderly nun, only to be awoken by a display of compassion by an innocent child. I am ashamed. I am humbled. My daughter, my junior by 24 years, was used this morning to teach me what it means to love.

I can only pray, "God, please give me the same compassion contained in the tiny body you allowed me to help create."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Transparent Blog Post

After nine years of private Christian schooling, I entered the doors of a public high school, sheltered, na├»ve, and nervous. The last class of a long but exciting day was physical science. The instructor was Shehrever Masters—a fastidious wealth of knowledge, who demanded perfection from his students. So high were his standards, they cost him his job. By the end of the year only a third of the original students remained, I was one of them, and I had achieved a perfect score. In fact, Masters had requested that I take the stand in court as his advocate as he battled Toledo Public Schools over legitimacy of his firing.

That first day was one of the most memorable days of my life; not because of the situation, the change, the thousands of new faces, but because of one statement that Mr. Masters made. His rich, distinctly middle eastern voice, cut through the room, and my heart as he said, “The first thing I must teach you all in this class, is that there is no God.”

What conviction! What unassuming assuredness bolstered the power of his statement! This moment will never leave my memory, for this was the first time (of many to come) in fourteen years I had ever doubted my faith, my salvation…my life.

As I recollect, I could almost feel sad. My sweet bubble had been burst. But I respect Shrehver Masters, for he taught me to love knowledge, and even more importantly, not to blindly believe anything.

The older I get, the more knowledge I accumulate. I read more books, attend more lectures, and meet more people who challenge what and why I believe. Even in the past few months I have felt as if a few bricks in the foundation of my world view have crumbled, and in those moments I doubt. It is not that I doubt goodness, God’s existence, or the validity of Jesus Christ as son of God; rather, bits and pieces entwined in the story of those things come into question and set my mind and emotions spinning. I feel like such a failure: weak, fickle, ignorant, unsure, and quite temporary.

Then I read an article in Time on the struggle of faith experienced by the world’s most beloved humanitarian, child of God, and modern day Saint, Mother Theresa, and I am comforted. I am not masochistically pleased that the Albanian nun suffered anguish as she doubted the nearness of God, but I am assured that I am not alone, and that even in my doubt, I can be used mightily by God.

Friday, September 21, 2007

looney....

The Loonie is now equal to the coveted US dollar (after 31 years).

What can I possibly say, except, congratulations to our Northern neighbors. The fact that this comes after the federal interest rate (US) was lowered, propelling the US economy into the best day of trading since 2003, can only mean that right now it must be great to be Canadian. Congrats!

So, who wants to buy my house? I hear there is some great investment properties in the Toronto market (haha).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

7

Think back to when you were a child.
What did you dream of as you fell asleep —space travel, did you go back in time?
Or maybe you dreamed of a magic screen that you could carry in your pocket — a screen to entertain you whenever you wanted.
It held your favorite, music, pictures, stories — it helped you find your way home — a screen that brought all of this to you wherever you were at the speed of light.
That was your dream.
With the magic of Sprint screen it all came true.

Maybe you've seen this latest "Sprint Ahead" ad campaign by Sprint. I guess Sprint was reading the mind of America...or at lest trying to. Instant ethnocentric, sensory, gratification seems to be every childs dream, trumping even the traversing of both space and time.

At least in my case, Sprint missed the mark, and knowing the reasders of this humble blog, yours too. My dreams have come true, but the channel has not been through instant access to last night's episode of Deal Or No Deal on my telephone. I can remember sitting at the dinner table with my parents when I was seven years old, professing that when I was "old" I would have seven children. Ok, so I don't have seven...but I do have four amazing angels, and a beautiful wife to share the duties of parenthood with. Every time I look at this picture I care less for my cell phone and realize my dreams have come true--and not with the magic of Sprint.

*By the way, in this pic Sandra told them to make a funny face...who do you think is the dominant of the three shown here?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Media Matters

The President of Russia has been scrutinized worldwide for his bizarre relationship with the media. As I have kept a wary eye on Putin’s tendency to revert to USSR ideology, particularly in this arena of censorship of media I have noted that censorship early on did not take the form of bans; rather, manipulation. Of late, as conspiracy reports have trickled into American media, I had to wonder…does Putin now react out of fear, or as so many fear, a desire to refurbish the iron curtain.

If it is fear—fear of the media, that is, perhaps I should allow myself to empathize with him, and you should too.

It is a teeter-totter game with our own media here in the USA as legislators try to ensure the oh-so-important freedom of speech while not impinging on the capitalistic foundation of America in placing anti-trust regulations (monopolies).

The consolidation of our local media has subtly been taking place since its inception right under our noses. Take a look at the “big ten” and how their reach extends beyond just television. Since this list has been compiled we have seen even more consolidation (i.e. AT&T, SBC, Yahoo).

Back to Putin: Why might he fear his own media? Simple. Knowledge is power, and whether or not the knowledge the media presents the masses with is true or not, as a democracy, the voting US is subject to and influenced by this information feed. Please read this, I would botch it if I reprodiced it, but keep in mind this is not a critique of the president. We will find a similar article on our next president regardless of party affiliation; Bush is just our current president, and thus more recent articles.

So, I empathize with Putin. The situation in America is not isolated! Our northern neighbors voice similar concerns.


This post may seem disorganized as this is a subject upon which I am not well versed, so I am begging for feedback, and asking that the reader do his/her own research. If, after either reading this or completing an investigation of your own you feel concerned, take action! My uncle Myron was terrified that the US Army would one day overthrow the government and disavow him of his rights. I have to wonder, as far as fascist takeovers go, should he have been more afraid of a consolidated control of information?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Country Time

Tomorrow I have to get up for work at 3am and right now for an early morning board meeting, and with as tired as I feel right now, the brain isn't functioning anywhere near peak performance, so the subject I was going to hit on will have to wait.

Instead, I want to take time to the few who read my blog for the time spent at good old My Friend Ivan, and for reciprocating the blogger relationship by providing stimulating, funny, humbling, convicting, and downright human to the core posts that I enjoy reading every day. Finally, I have found a truly enjoyable online activity besides gambling.

I have a request. As of later I have been getting into country music; not the Achey Breaky modern stuff, but the old gospel influenced stuff. I've made a few rudimentary songs of my own, but would like to broaden my horizons. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 17, 2007

To Catch a Desperate Housewife

On November 6th, 2006 a district attorney from Texas committed suicide in his home as the world watched, myself included. Police were waiting outside his home to arrest him for soliciting sex with a “13 year old boy” (decoy), and NBC camera crews were waiting there alongside authorities to broadcast the shame and humiliation of a man who had made a big mistake.

Odds are the deceased DA knew his face was soon to be hitting the screens of millions of television screens across America; who hasn’t seen or caught wind of NBC’s To Catch a Predator. I sat stunned. Surely I had not just heard the blast that propelled a bullet into a man’s brain! I felt sick.

Before I go any further, let me advise the reader that this post is not a polemic on the ethics of entrapment as it relates to police/military affairs—something deeper disturbs me about this particular prime time incident.

Certainly the carefree regulations imposed by the FCC on the internet create a massive potential for evil as well as good, particularly when it come to sex and pornography. In fact social networking giant, MySpace, just booted off a behemoth 29,000 sexual predators—29,000 profiles I wouldn’t want my kids coming across.

Why the prolific increase in adults seeking sexual fulfillment with minors? Let’s ask America's favorite promiscuous ladies, the characters of ABC's Desperate Housewives. One particular episode featured a very cool and sexy underage teenager (16) seeking emancipation from his mother in order to get his greedy hands on an inheritance. His alcoholic mother meets a sex addict at her AA meeting—they hook up. Mom wins the court battle, son gets no emancipation, no money. He is so mad at mom he finds the perfect way to get back at her. We see his revenge on our screen as mom walks in on half naked, attractive, boyfriend and half naked, attractive son in bed, post coitus--yep, a forty year old just had sex with a 16 year, old.

Do I need to go any further? A late 50’s prosecuting attorney who has been battling his desire to hook up with an underage young man certainly would NOT be dissuaded by this debauched display. American Media, repent for your hypocrisy!

Sure they are two different networks, owned by two different media giants (GE/Disney), but you don’t have to leave ABC to find sexy young high school engaging their budding sexuality on primetime…check out an episode or two of Friday Night Lights, but be careful, odds are you’ll see a tempting young 17 year old vixen advertising her assets.

Yes, sexual predators are a problem; however, a media with an unquenchable thirst for ratings that can only be satisfied by pushing moral boundaries and forcing sexy young teens into adult situations may be at the root of the problem. Was ABC looking to ease its conscience with each episode of To Catch A Predator? I doubt it—just another insatiable story to spike ratings.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

This Old House

I am considerably proud right now…and tired. So this post will be very, VERY short.

Sandra and I bought our first house about a year ago. It was cheap, ugly, falling to pieces, and it was ours. I remember the day we signed our lives away and were finally given keys. We unlocked the doors and walked into our new home. As I walked through my new home, I panicked. What had I gotten myself into? No wonder it was so cheap. Both Sandra and I were trying to act excited, but we were both scared.


To date we have rehabbed every room in the house, except the bathroom. For the past two days we have been slave to this dreaded room. I pulled up five layers of plywood, most of them rotten. Underneath the galvanized feed lines were pulled and replaced with copper, and the cast iron drain lines were swapped out for PVC. The toilet, which was snug up against the soil pipe—and awkward position—so I moved it four feet away, not an easy task when the new position required a drain line that ran against the floor joists.

A pro could have done it in a day. It took me two. But after several breakdowns, a few moments peppered with colorful language, and a two foot geyser (after turned the water back on was brought to the realization that I had forgotten to sweat on of the copper joints together) I was able to stand back and look on in amazement. I did this! No books, no internet, no help, besides some advice from a seasoned friend. In fact, I think I felt more pride than the times in which I have brought in $10,000.00+ donations at work. That probably sounds bad (like a bad fit), but there is something to be said for working with your hands.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Jude is Cool

“Get out Satan! I rebuke you Satan! Satan I hate you!”

Reread those three emphatic statements one more time, but as you read, substitute your voice for that of a shrill, high-pitched, middle aged, feminist, charismatic, preacher/TBN television personality. If I were Satan, I would hit the deck running—not because the obnoxious (tactfully unnamed) woman possessed any real authority to command me as such, she is just too annoying, and even the prince of darkness’ eardrums have their limits.

The first time I saw her performance I laughed so hard—and then proceeded to imitate for the weeks on end until someone finally told me to give it a rest. Now I want to cry. If Belial himself were such and imminent presence, what did he think of her incantations? Did they scare him? Look for yourself…the premise of authority each time is “I.”

Jude, were he alive in the 21st century, would have pulled the plug and ended transmission of such a display.

“Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject
authority, and slander the glorious ones. But when the archangel
Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did
not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, ‘The Lord
rebuke you!"


So one of the chief angels (it has been argued that Michael is actually the Son of God) dared not use his own authority…in fact, the first person pronoun was never used. His authority rested in “the Lord,” and he dare not disrespect that. Jude probably would have relegated my TBN friend to the ranks of, “or certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

I bring this up, not just to poke fun at an over inflated ego, or to poignant demonstrate the frailty of the human condition, but to point out a mystery of the Christian canon of scripture, having just posted three blogs on the subject.

A few points:
1---It is a major tenant of the Christian faith the Bible is the ONLY inerrant and infallible document in existence—absolute truth.
2---Are there any other inerrant; that is, absolutely trustworthy documents outside the Christian canon of scripture? Most would say no.
3---The book of Jude falls in the Christian canon of scripture, thus each verse within is infallible.
BUT, the verse quoted above in which Michael argues with Mr. Spooky over Moses’ body is actually a quotation from, “the Assumption of Moses,” a non-canonical Jewish work. A few sentences later another apocryphal work, the book of Enoch is quoted.
4---So, logic says that we can rest assured that one or two verses of non-canonical works are inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

So, did Michael really engage in cosmic battle with the Evil One over the body of Moses?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Social Currency

The bought my first musical instrument for $3.50. I paid for it with a handful of change. It was a blue electric bass; a four string put out by Memphis. The neck was split, there were no strings, and the electronics were a jumbled up mess. I fixed the next, bought some strings, and rewired the mess (miraculously). The next week I learned “Zombie,” by the Cranberries and joined a band. There was always a part of me, even though I knew I was the most unlikely candidate, that dreamed of “making it big,” of walking the stage like my heroes, Thom Yorke, Bono, Richard Ashcroft, and wielding that influential currency that our society allows.

Good times—twelve years ago.

Things change. I found out the lightning blue bass was stolen ($3.50) so I gave it back. A few trades later, and I don’t even own a bass—just two cheap guitars and a synth. But, there is a small part of me that still wouldn’t mind making it big. The swagger, the currency, the notoriety mean so little…just the opportunity to be heard.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Anbar

I was sitting in my Hebrew teacher’s Sunday School class with my soon to be wife, Sandra. After 45 minutes of picking apart the grammar of an ancient text, revealing intricacies of interpretation with application still relevant to today, he opened up the floor for questions. The same people raised their hands that day, just like every other Sunday. And just like every other Sunday, I rolled my eyes as each hand shot up, knowing that each hand represented not a question, but an attempt to showcase insight. That day one old granny raised her hand. When it was her turn she asked her question: “Do you think the American military can establish a democracy in the Middle East?”

Ripples of chuckles swept the room, for this question was certainly off topic—but she had asked the right person. My Hebrew teacher had spent years in the middle east, learning firsthand the nuances of the Hebrew language. He had been on archeological digs, translated the Dead Sea Scrolls, and rubbed shoulders with Uzi toting Israeli soldiers (by the way, uzi, in Hebrew, literally means “my strength”—how ironic)!

The man with many degrees tactfully held his tongue. To this day I do not know what his answer would have been to the elderly woman with intriguing insight. But I know what my answer would have been.

I try to be optimistic…it is easier to live that way. But I also know there seems to exist a mindset in the Middle East that has both positive and negative elements. Take for example the Jewish people. Their tenacity for survival as a people inspires me to no end. From the exile in Egypt, to the divided kingdom, to the Babylonian exile, to the Syrian exile, to the Diaspora, to the Holocaust, to today this people has never lost sight of who they are, but they also have not lost sight of who has wronged them in the past…and this could quite possibly a mere national defense mechanism. All that to say, if people, if rivalries, if forms of government (dictatorships), have not changed in thousands of years, how can a super power such as America change them overnight.

As I watched President Bush’s address to the nation tonight I was reminded of that evening. Have things changed? I don’t know—how dare I presume to know the political climate of a place I have not been, of a subject (war) which is foreign to me, with the little knowledge I have being based on a tainted media—but as our president talked of Anbar and the success that had been achieved by the military in the province of Anbar, that sinking feeling came back. If it is true that Al Quaeda has been extricated from Anbar and that its citizens are aiding the military with insider information, I had to fear for those citizens. With a gradual troop withdrawal on the horizon, do the citizens of Anbar truly posses security? Things don’t change overnight! Once we are gone, based on the history of the Middle East, does not it seem likely that the ratted out members of Al Quaeda will com back with a vengeance. I am at a loss. Certainly our troops cannot remain there forever—that in itself is another ethical dilemma, another blog post. Look at the report that came just moments before tonight’s address.

Like my professor, I don’t often make political statements…and this blog follows suit. It is a call to prayer, for wisdom in difficult times, and tonight, for the people of Anbar.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Canonical Dilemma III

Luther was no slouch…after all, he was a catholic. He was trained as a monk, knew his biblical languages…in fact, he translated all of scripture including the seven extra books Trent affirmed. Luther knew the history of the formation of venerable books better than I ever will. Luther loved God. Luther loved the Roman Catholic Church, thus the term “reformer.” Luther had no intentions of starting a new branch of Christianity called Protestantism. In seminary I grew to love the quirky Luther. My major, Biblical Languages would have been right up the alley of the guy who coined the term Sola Scriptura…certainly that guy had strong historical and intellectual reasons for breaking from tradition.

In Canonical Dilemma II I focuses primarily on the councils of the RCC and not much on the individuals that led up to them, simply with the assumption that the individuals (church fathers) formed the historical premise for combating heresy at each occasion.

But there are discrepancies, and Luther knew this. The generation or two following the earthly life of Jesus accepted the Old Testament as scripture, but certainly not the New Testament. How could they? It had not yet been compiled. Books found within the New Testament certainly were used and taught…but so were books not included in the New Testament canon accepted by the RCC (Hermas, Barnabas, Didache, and 1 and 2 Clement, to name a few). So if figures early in the history of the Christian church, the church fathers, who, mind you were a part of the catholic (lit. greek, according to the whole) and not the RCC, and even some apologists who followed this group of men who directly connect the church with apostles could have made some mistakes about the New Testament (which were eventually corrected by the RCC) couldn’t they have made mistakes as well regarding the Old Testament?

In 1534 Luther finished his copy of scripture. His copy was similar to ours today, except the apocryphal books were placed after the Old Testament as an appendix with a note stating that these books were held as not equal to scripture, but valuable to read. Trent, the council that OFFICIALLY canonized what the RCC would hitherto call scripture, did not occur until 1545-1563.

Before Luther RCC scholars had called into question the legitimacy of the same books Luther had. Desiderius Eerasmus had his own doubts, and was even vocal about them. The difference being Erasmus did not take issue with the church, nor have a following of unruly seminary students rallying behind him like Luther had. There are circles of thought out there that suggest that Luther, had it not been for Zwingli and Calvin, would have promoted his canon with the apocrypha.

Why Luther ultimately decided the seven apocryphal books were substandard to the rest of scripture.

1) They added nothing new to
developing themes throughout scripture.
2) Luther interpreted scripture through Christological lenses…if any book of the
Bible did not have overwhelming historical acceptance AND distorted the Christ
event and the intertwined grace, it was on thin
ice.
3) They promoted ideas/practices that
disagree with scripture as a whole.
I can sympathize with points one and two,
but three, if taken seriously, would decimate many books accepted by Luther and
Trent. (i.e. the proto Gnostic tendencies of John).


I could go on forever, but this is a blog post, not a dissertation. Where am I left personally when it comes to this canonical conundrum? Only time, study, and dependence on the Holy Spirit will tell.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Canonical Dilemma II

Recapping the previous blog: as an evangelical protestant I have taken for granted the formation of the sole foundation of my faith—the Bible. As an evangelical protestant I have hypocritically disdained tradition/oral tradition. Why is this hypocritical? Because as I mentioned yesterday, Jesus, the One upon which Christianity is based, never gave me, nor any of His early followers a list of canonical books. In fact, the recountings of Jesus life, the gospels, were written after the majority of the New Testament. So, inadvertently in my ignorance, I have relied on tradition, actions of men, to decipher what writings belong in the book I call the Bible. I will be focusing on the two main streams of Christianity and their canons: Protestantism and Catholicism (hereafter, RCC).

There are two preconceived ideas on canonization that may be false:

1) Martin Luther wished to purge the RCC of
practices that were clearly unbiblical, i.e. praying for the dead. The
RCC, in order to justify these practices added books to the canon at the Council
of Trent to justify such practices. 2 Maccabees 12:38-46 justifies praying
for the dead. How many times have you heard that the RCC canon has “extra”
books. Josh McDowell on this subject: It cannot be overemphasized
that the Roman Catholic Church itself did not officially declare these books
Holy Scripture until 1545-1563 at the Council of Trent. The acceptance of
certain books in the apocrypha as canonical by the RCC was to a great extent a
reaction to the Protestant Reformation. By canonizing these books, they
were able to legitimize their reference to them in doctrinal
matters.
2) The early RCC decided to close the
canon and allow only the book of the Bible as they appear in the protestant
canon. Later, the RCC reneged and allowed the seven extra books to be
included.


Books, volumes…libraries have been written on this subject. I will only be scratching the surface of this historical giant as I give a brief history of the formation of the canon up to Luther, and let me forewarn you, it will be disorganized.

Did a reactionary RCC have to defend their doctrine and thus canonize illegitimate books (Trent)? Well, the reactionary part is true. Isn’t this what councils always served as? Protestants (most) accept every council as God ordained. The reactionary Council of Nicaea had to settle Alexandrian schism between Arius and Athanasius. This council affirmed what the catholic church had always held as truth. Nicea did not “add” anything new to belief and practice. The function of Trent was exactly the same as Nicea. It did not add to the cannon, just affirmed that the cannon was not going to change for the RCC as it did for Luther.

So this seven book heavier canon existed before Trent? F.F. Bruce (conservative, evangelical, protestant scholar) in “The Canon of Scripture”
In 405 AD Pope Inocent I embodied a list of canonical books in a letter
addressed to Exsuperius, bishop of Toulouse; it too included the
Apocrypha. The 6th Council of Carthage (419AD) Re-enacted the ruling of
the 3rd Council, again with the inclusion of the apocryphal
books…
The
6th Council of Carthage repromulgated (in canon 24) the resolution of the 3rd
council regarding the canon of scripture, and added a note directing that the
resolution be sent to the bishop of Rome (Boniface I) and other Bishops:
‘Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow-priest Boniface, or to
other bishops of those parts, for the purpose of confirming that Canon [canon 47
of the 3rd council], because we have received from our fathers that these books
which are to be read in church.


Now, let’s go to the Council of Florence…41 years BEFORE the birth of Martin Luther, 75 years BEFORE the Protestant Reformation. Here is what the council decreed before the hint of a schism arose:
This sacred ecumenical council of Florence…professes that one and
the same God is the author of the OT and the NT—that is, the law and the
prophets, and the gospel—since the saints of both testaments spoke under the
inspiration of the same Spirit. It accepts and venerates (see here Pete,
they VENERATE it. Because a controversy has not arisen like that of
Luther, there is no need for the church ‘canonize’) their books as
follows. Five books of Moses, namely Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 4 books of kings [1&2 Samuel, 1&2
Kings], two of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Tobit, Judith, Esther, Job, Psalms of
David, Proverbs, Ecclesiaties, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Baruch, Ezzekiel, Daniel; The 12 minor prophets and the 2 books of
Maccabees, (then they go on to name all 27 books of the NT.


The Synod of Hippo, also ruled pre-Luther in favor of these books as inspired and venerable. Are you noticing a pattern here? Just like the councils of Florence and Trent, the Synod of Hippo also included the “deuterocanonical” books as books of the “canon”. In case you are keeping track, this synod published its canon of Scripture 1,086 year BEFORE Luther was born, 1,120 years BEFORE he nailed his 95 Theses to Castle Church, and 1,149 years BEFORE the council of Trent that supposedly manipulated scripture to accommodate doctrine.

What about the Jewish OT…it doesn’t have the seven extra books.

However, one group of Jews rejected Jesus. The other group openly accepted Him as their Messiah and became members of the growing sect not yet termed Christianity. The Hebrew Canon of the majority of today’s Jews is the canon that was settled upon by a group of Rabbis meeing in Jamnia {or Javneh} in 90 AD (hmmm…pretty close to the explosion of Christianity). However, these rabbis were exclusively those who rejected Jesus. Keep in mind, MANY Christian Jews maintained their ties with their community and heritage. This same group also rejected the NT. At this same meeting all present were required to curse the name of Jesus Christ. The other group of Jews, Christians, ACCETPED THE DEUTEROCANONICAL BOOKS AS EQUALLY INSPIRED. This can be seen in their writings where they quote from these books and call them HOLY SCRIPTURE. This begs the question—“Do I look to the Jews, the Scribes and Pharisees, who did not recognize the Incarnated Word of God when He walked in their midst? Do I trust these people to tell me what the inspired written word of God is? Or, do I trust the witness of the early church. Or, did God give Luther insight to save is Bride from unfaithfulness?

Love or hate the RCC, the institution can and, in my humble opinion, be seen as God’s tool for sustaining His people from 313 till, depending on your viewpoint, at least the day a passionate monk with grace flowing through his enraged veins nailed a series of theses to an unsuspecting church door. This institution is a witness. If I accept Nicea, I must at least consider Trent and the historical backdrop of its outcome.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Canonical Dilemma

This blog will be the first in a small series of at least three blogs on a subject near and dear to my heart. I have a feeling some might lose interest—or may not take interest at all for that matter. So, if that happens to be you, check back in a few days. So, let me dig into this topic by means of introduction.

I remember when I first was confronted with that uncomfortable uncertainty that can only come when one realizes they may have based their life on error/ignorance. I had just met The Surveyor. It had to be two in the morning, and we were flexing our hermeneutical muscles. Actually, The Surveyor was firing off problem texts and I was doing my best to make sense of them. He mentioned he preferred to use the New Revised Standard Version of scripture. Apart from my Nestle-Aland GNT, I tended to side with the New American Standard Version. The most observable difference between the two: the NRSV contains the “extra” apocryphal works. Since then my growing unrest with theories of canonization has only gotten stronger.

Why? Besides the fact that I had just spent six years immersed in this text, learning the intricacies of its original languages, as a protestant, my theological matrix is shaped by reverence for this book we call that Bible—from the Greek, biblios, meaning book. Simply put, I as a protestant don’t accept the authority of the pope. Instead, as a rebellious offspring of Martin Luther, I accept the authority of scripture, and my God-given right to interpret it—Solo Scriptura (lit. scripture only).

I would be willing to guess that most of you reading this sing the same reformed tune. So let me pose a few hypotheticals: How did you get your Bible? Why is the Protestant canon of scripture right, and the Catholic canon wrong? Who gave us our canon?

Here is the dilemma…we (I) base our belief system on Sola Scriptura, and we are sure our Bible is the right Bible, but we no clue why. We don’t know how it was compiled, or what governing bodies handed it down to us. Certainly Jesus didn’t! If I am going to base my life on a book, namely the protestant canon, I had better make sure it is the right canon. I had better be sure that I am not missing out by neglecting the apocryphal books. By the way, I read 4 Maccabees 1 today, my inspiration for this blog.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Travel Bug

Why a blog?
My original intent as I started this blog was to initiate discussion, push my opinions on others in an aggressive and bellicose fashion, and communicate to friends in other places what it is like to be me at any given moment. Like I foreshadowed in the very first of few entries, I doubted I would be faithful, and knowing myself as I do, it takes little introspection to see that I have fulfilled with swift lethargy.
BUT…as I read through my infantile blog, I was swept up in the emotions that guided my fingers in each entry. It was great. So, I am committing to 30 blogs in 30 days, the first being today…a blog within a blog.

Blog Within a Blog
Sandra and I have the “travel bug.” I remember my parents using that term—“travel bug,” when I was eight years old. If I had the financial means, I would allow myself intimate knowledge of the world through travel. I doubt I would live in any given place for more than a few years. Neither would Sandra.

Since this is an unattainable fantasy, Sandra and I compensate by going to ethnic festivals. Yesterday we and our four kids hit up the Greek American festival in old downtown Toledo. It’s worth the five dollar gyros and four dollar brews to be able to walk the streets of the Toledo Greek ghetto circa 1910 for a few hours.

Before we left Sandra had a hankering for baklava, so we headed into the Greek Orthodox church so she could satisfy her refined palate. While she stood in line, I perused the orthodox booths containing ethnic art, icons, and jewelry, and enjoyed the ruddy individuals selling the stuff. I loved the authenticity of the faith. No need for emergent relevance here—just an abiding love for scripture, faith, practice, and God. I came across an old woman, Greek born, selling Greek language classes. What a sweet woman…if I have ever seen the divine exuding from a tainted creation, it was her. As we discussed the difference between Koine and Modern Greek her face lit up. She gave me her phone number and said I MUST come to her class. And we will. When else will we have the opportunity to learn from someone’s native language experience?

My bubble almost burst when I mentioned this to a guy, a big movie buff, later that night at a birthday party. As I talked about my exciting experience, he laughed, and sarcastically exclaimed, “Why would you want to do that!” What the crap? Are you serious? Yeah, what was I thinking, a movie would be so much more fulfilling! Hollyweird would be much more self-enriching than gaining a better understanding of the sociolinguistic setting in which a world religious movement was birthed.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to learning Greek better, while satisfying my inner "travel bug" at the home of the sweet Greek grandma. And I am looking forward to stretching the limits of my gumption with the next 29 blogs. If anyone who actually reads this thing sees me dragging my feet, I wholeheartedly welcome verbal chastisement.