Thursday, December 16, 2010

Evolutionary Christianity Gives Me Hope

Somehow learned of this site recently titled Evolutionary Christianity.  Michael Dowd is interviewing a number of scientists and religious leaders along the general theme not of reconciling evolution and Christianity but of exploring how evolution can aid, inform, and deepen religious faith.  Have listened to interviews with Ian Barbour, Dennis Lamoreaux, Ross Hostetter and Karl Giberson so far.  Very interesting, informative, and enjoyable.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

More Thoughts from Deeper than Darwin

Haven't posted much lately.  Work has been so demanding.  My mind in the off moments has settled on the superficial.  In some brief moments, however, have been savoring . . . slowly . . .  the book Deeper than Darwin by John Haught.  Here are some quotes that jump out or me.

This is for the new atheists:

Only cosmic literalists will claim to have read the world all the way down,  and what they take for ultimate depth sooner or later turns out to be merely  surface.

Speaking of Alfred North Whitehead

Physical reality in an evolving universe is  made up, he observes, of moments, events or occasions, not chunks of spatialized stuff.  It is an illusory abstraction to assume, as old-fashioned materialists  do, that the fundamental units of nature are particles of lifeless  matter. If nature is a process of becoming, then its reality is temporal; and  time, logically speaking, is composed of happenings, not atoms. What we  think of as mechanisms or bits of matter are not concretely real, but at best  useful scientific abstractions. If nature is in evolution, then its fundamentally  temporal character can be broken down concretely only into events, not materialized monads.

As one trained and entranced by science and in particular physics, where one goal is the study and the pursuit of the understanding of the tiny bits of matter that constitute everything, it is little wonder that some of us would see the world as mechanism.  But that is not the whole story.  The book his helpful in seeing that.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Narrative Texture of Nature - a quotation from J. Haught's "Deeper than Darwin"

Thought provoking reading from Deeper Than Darwin: The Prospect For Religion In The Age Of Evolution

Celebrated academicians, for example, often think of the cosmos as a pointless swirl of mindless stuff on which a patina of life and mind glimmers feebly for a cosmic moment.5 The narrative texture of nature still lies largely unacknowledged. However, once we develop the habit of thinking of the cosmos as a story-as geology, biology and astrophysics now demand that we do-the universe again becomes something to be read, possibly at many levels of depth. We not only now find in nature features analogous to codes, alphabets, grammars and information. We can also make out the outline of a dramatic adventure. But shall we be able to find a "meaning" written there also?

Not if we persist in our literalism. Like all texts and stories, nature is susceptible to shallow readings that fail to get to its inner substance. Today, it seems to me, evolutionary materialism is a kind of "cosmic literalism" stuck on the surface of nature, satisfied with groundless claims that there is simply nothing beneath the "fundamental" laws of physics and natural selection. Just as biblical literalism remains content with a plain reading of scripture, the modern decision to understand the universe and the evolution of life as "merely material" is essentially a literalist flight from the depths of nature.
Today, we are all painfully aware of religious literalism and its sometimes hideous consequences. Literalism, of course, is one of the side effects of literacy.

Friday, November 05, 2010

God is moving and working in evolution to reveal his true design for humanity

The title of this post was lifted directly from Jeff's blog, where he gives profound thoughts relevant to my last two posts.  Check it out here.  He abstracted his thoughts from two podcasts he heard. I'll be thinking about it today and let take some time to soak in.

The confluence of these two thinkers - Pichon and Wright, one an orthodox Catholic the other a naturalistic agnostic - are encouraging and uplifting - both pointing, obviously unintentionally, to a reality larger than ourselves or our particular concerns but that "derives down" to imbue meaning and power in our individual existence and especially in those places and ways where we live in compassion, stand for justice, and seek to develop and support systems and institutions that advocate for the weak, the poor, the marginal and the suffering.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Scientific Literalism - An insight from John Haught

Finally, my travels are over for a while.  Last week was in Newport News, VA for a meeting related to turbine engine instrumentation.  The reception Tuesday night included a chef who made a tasty Bananas Foster on demand.  Ummm Good!

On the trip I carried a copy of God After Darwin by John Haught  and Exploring Reality:  The Intertwining of Science and Religion by John Polkinghorne.  Enjoyed both of them but the first book really whetted my appetite for more by that author.  So, while in the waiting room for my annual physical exam at work this morning, I downloaded to my Kindle, Deeper Than Darwin:  The Prospect For Religion In The Age of Evolution by John Haught.  Here is a snippet from an early chapter.  He mentions that not only is a literal interpretation of scripture pursued by many religious people but that there is an analog of that within the scientific community.

However, in a parallel way, a literalist interpretation  of nature-one that goes no deeper than Galileo's quantitative symbols or  Darwin's idea of natural selection-can also lead scientists to dismiss religion  for the shallowest of reasons. Scientific deciphering of nature has been the  occasion for great gains in knowledge, but it has also permitted the emergence   of a most soul-deadening "cosmic literalism." Our recently acquired  scientific expertise in reading the text of nature has led us into such a trancelike   fixation on surface codes and signifiers, and on life's evolutionary grammar,   that we fail to look into the depth that lies beneath them. I hope in the  following pages to burrow beneath both religious and cosmic literalism.  Only in the depth beneath the texts of nature and holy writ shall we find a  way to reconcile science and religion, evolution and the idea of God.

Now that is a new idea to me.  And, wouldn't you know that it connects with my previous post, from different authors, about how people in our age are prone to the literal view of things.   I'm looking forward to learning how he fleshes out this insight. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reconciling the Bible and Science: A Primer on the Two Books of God

At the advice of an Abilene Christian prof, I purchased and read Reconciling the Bible and Science:  A Primer on the Two Books of God by Lynn Mitchell and Kirk Blackard.  The two authors come from the Church of Christ.  Lynn is a religious scholar at the University of Houston and Kirk is a retired lawyer.  My prejudice will show here in what I'm about to say.  I didn't expect something this good from authors from my heritage.  The book is not about science but about interpretation of the Bible and how it relates to science.  Their position may be described as falling within theistic evolution which is where I see myself.  They find consonance with the idea that there is intelligence behind the unfolding of our universe.  But have problems with the Intelligent Design movement for various theological as well as scientific reasons.  Much of the content of the book was familiar to me but their organization and narrative was nonetheless helpful to me.  The most striking thought came in a section on literalism.  Here's a quote:

Modern Americans are generally not very good at non-literal interpretation.  Think about how few people enjoy the study of Shakespeare generation, few people enjoy or get much of out Shakespeare now because we've lost so much of our sense of symbolic, metaphorical, and mythological imagination.  We are basically literalists who tend to feel that everything not intended to be read literally is not worth spending much time on because it doesn't really tell us much.

It's been a while, but I have tried to read Shakespeare.  Maybe it was while helping one of my sons study for school.  I'd like to understand it better but it would take some investment and would require personal assistance from some one. 

Anyway, my take is that our Anglo-American heritage is very literal minded and most of us received it from the same place as Hobbes, Bacon, Newton, Locke, Thomas Paine, Thomas Reid, Alex Campbell, Foy Wallace, Bertrand Russell, Stephen Hawking, Daniel Dennett, Chris Hitchens and Sam Harris got it. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Discovering What We Think by Writing

Have experienced blog fatigue this summer and not posted much.  Wasn't sure why i took up this blog in the first place.  It seemed like an interesting thing to explore.  Sure do enjoy reading the blogs of others.  My my, how the blog universe has changed these six years.  I did know at the beginning that writing is one way to discover and clarify what you believe and how you think.  This is backed up by something I read recently on my Kindle in a book titled Jacques Derrida by Nicholas Royle.  He says:

In the early essay 'Force and Signification' (1963), Derrida quotes the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–61): 'My own words take me by surprise and teach me what I think'

Friday, September 17, 2010

Max Lucado on Fear

Am reading Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear (Max Lucado)
- Highlight Loc. 268-73 | Added on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 10:35 PM

"Jesus doesn’t want you to live in a state of fear. Nor do you. You’ve never made statements like these: My phobias put such a spring in my step. I’d be a rotten parent were it not for my hypochondria. Thank God for my pessimism. I’ve been such a better person since I lost hope. My doctor says if I don’t begin fretting, I will lose my health. 

We’ve learned the high cost of fear."

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Snip from Kindle from Marilynne Robinson from R. W. Emerson

Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self (Marilynne Robinson)
- Highlight Loc. 148-54 | Added on Sunday, June 06, 2010, 12:39 PM

Recently I read to a class of young writers a passage from Emerson’s “The American Scholar” in which he says, “In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach, and bide his own time,—happy enough if he can satisfy himself alone that this day he has seen something truly…. For the instinct is sure, that prompts him to tell his brother what he thinks. He then learns that in going down into the secrets of his own mind he has descended into the secrets of all minds.” These words caused a certain perturbation. The self is no longer assumed to be a thing to be approached with optimism, or to be trusted to see anything truly. Emerson is describing the great paradox and privilege of human selfhood, a privilege foreclosed when the mind is trivialized or thought to be discredited. The clutch of certitudes that, together, trivialize and discredit are very much in need of being looked at again.


Great Insights by Both Authors.  I underlined something that jumped out to me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jonah from the Deep

From a battle on top of the water to an internal battle below and from out of the depths.  Reading Bobby Valentine's blog series on Jonah calls to mind Jonah's prayer from the fish at the bottom of the sea and underneath the mountains!  Jonah says

You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas....

 the deep surrounded me

seaweed was wrapped around my head 

To the roots of the mountains I sank down

Don't be fooled by the literal Vacation Bible School story most of us have internalized.  He, Jonah, is talking on the spiritual level for all of us. 

From the depths of Hell I called for help,
       and you listened to my cry. 

Sounds a lot like Psalms 130, the inspiration for the title of this blog.  Jonah 2 reads to me very much like the Psalms.  Jonah cries from "Out of the Depths".  He vows to make good.  He is all of us is he not?  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lost Species of Feeling: Sleep under an Oscillating Fan

Don't know if you have felt this or not. But when I was young, very young, I recall Mom having us take a nap during hot summer afternoons on a pallet on the floor in front of an oscillating fan. I have fond memories of the hum, the waxing and waning, the wind on my hair and covering. Sometimes it was while visiting relatives and several of us are sleeping, that is, it was a family communal thing. I remember a feeling of well being. Dreams were pleasant. There was a feeling of special meaning and significance. I don't know why. I was too young to know the meaning of those words but felt them nonetheless. In retrospect the word liminal may describe it, the state of being on the threshold or between two different existential states. Has anyone else felt this?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bought a Kindle.

Bought a Kindle a week ago. Am enjoying it. Find the book you want, press a button, and you have it. I downloaded a 4000 page collection of Ralph Waldo Emerson's writings that way. Am reading six things at once. Marilyn Robinson's Absence of Mind, Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, Some writings of Edmund Burke and Adam Smith, and a Sherlock Holmes collection. Books published a long time ago tend to be free or 99 cents. Newer books often just $9 but many current books are not yet available. Fun to use.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Response to "A Brief History of Time" Post

S. P. Lunger responded to the original post on "A Brief History of Time". Blogger is doing funny things to the both of us. His response was repeated five times. As I was attempting to delete the extras, it removed all of them. So, I'll repeat his question here and then respond. S. P. said,

I'm curious what you mean by Physicists over-emphasizing physics in explaining the Universe. Are you appealing to the Science for it's realm, Philosophy/Religion for its realm? Or do I misunderstand you?

Sorry to be so vague. My statement was influenced by something I read some four years ago in Nancey Murphy's Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda. And I was referring to what might be considered physics chauvinism as against the other sciences. When I originally read the following passage, I was taken aback and felt a little defensive. But now I am more of a convert to the point of view, despite my having three physics degrees. From Chapter 6 Metaphysical Holism and Divine Action and the section Scientific Developments she writes:

It is now becoming widely recognized by scientists working at a variety of levels in the hierachy of the sciences that while analysis and reduction are important aspects of scientific enquiry, they do not yield a complete or adequate account of the natural world. In simple terms, one has to consider not only the parts of an entity but also its interactions with its environment in order to understand it. Since the entity plus its environment is a more complex system than the entity itself (and therefore higher in the hierarchical ordering of systems), this means that a "top-down" analysis must be considered in addition to a "bottom-up"analysis.

Science writer Silvan Schweber claims that recognition of the failure of the reductionist program has contributed to a crisis in physical theory:

'A deep sense of unease permeates the physical sciences. We are in a time of great change. . . . The underlying assumptions of physics research have shifted. Traditionally, physics has been highly reductionist, analyzing nature in terms of smaller and smaller building blocks and revealing underlying, unifying fundamental laws. In the past this grand vision has bound the subdisciplines together. Now, however, the reductionist approach that has been the hallmark of theoretical physics in the 20th century is being superseded by the investigation of emergent phenomena. . . .

The conceptual dimension of the crisis has its roots in the seeming failure of the reductionist approach, in particular its difficulties accounting for the existence of objective emergent properties. ' (ref according to Murphy is - Silvan S. Schweber, "Physics, Community and the Crisis in Physical Theory, " Physics Today (Nov. 1993) p 34-40.

My current opinion is that though there is plenty to be learned regarding things at the quark level and below, and despite how fascinating and mathematically beautiful string theory is, and how astrophysics continues to astound us, we can nevertheless learn about the fundamental nature of reality by exploring conceptual developments in biology and elsewhere. And we can derive benefit from other formerly distinct disciplines like philosophy, religion, and literature.

The emergent and relational nature of reality seems to me fundamental and I'd like to learn more about it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Brief History of Time

Picked up Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" over the weekend and it was quite enjoyable. Was more familiar with the early parts from school and experience. Was quite happy to learn that Black Holes are not forever but gradually decay. Can't say I followed every argument in detail but got the gist of a lot of it. One question, well I have many, is why we haven't been able to harness the Casimir Effect for space travel, energy production etc. Suppose I should google it. Hawking is a brilliant physicist and knows what's going on in the field. However, physicists probably emphasize too much the explanatory power of physics for explaining the universe. I know because I am one too. But, that is not the whole story by any means. There are emergent properties of reality that seem to me to be outside of physics and are very important.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Spiritual Meaning of Travel

I did the devotional talk at church last night on "The Spiritual Meaning of Travel." When done right, travel is something that feeds the soul and enriches life. As it says in Col 3:17 whatever we do, we are to do in the name of the Lord. We Americans do a lot of travel so we should do it with spiritual intention. Just as Man was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath was made for Man, so Travel was made for us and is a gift for our spiritual formation.

A blessing that accompanies travel is that our senses are heightened. Sights and scenes are more vivid , tastes and smells are more intense, attention is increased, and memory improved. At home we have our priorities, our concerns, chores, commitments to family, work, church and friends. Our senses are dulled or go unnoticed because of the business at hand. When we leave the routine for a trip, short or long, we leave that behind.

I recounted memories of forty years ago when I was on a mission trip with a Harding U. group in the Netherlands. Gave a food story.

The Bible is one long travelogue, really. The characters travel for a variety of reasons: to deliver messages, engage in commerce, visit family, perform government business, escape danger, perform religious observance, attends feasts, weddings, and go on missions. Gave examples of some of these. But, there is risk in travel. Travel benefits us but there are times when accidents and bad things happen. The Good Samaritan had some bad luck. The Man of God of I Kings 13 too. He believed a lie and was killed. Finally there is the family of David Lipscomb. When he was young, his Dad and Uncle left Tennessee for the North in order to release their slaves. While there, some pestilence came through and killed a third of the group. Yes, there is risk in travel, but the risk brings benefits to others. I brought that out because I'm not a proponent of a health and wealth gospel. But, I do derive comfort from a tweet by Max Lucado "Here is an idea. Assume it's going to work out for the best. Isn't Romans 8:28 still in the Bible?"

Next, before discussing heroes of the Bible and their Transformative Travels I introduced my own list of characteristics of:

The Archetypal Journey
  1. In the Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure/Refusal
  3. Crossing the Threshold
  4. Tests/Ordeals/Experiences
  5. Rewards/Promises
  6. The Road Back
  7. Arriving with what is learned and sharing
There are various versions of the above. Joseph Campbell and others have described, argued and enumerated the stages of the heroes journey elsewhere as can be googled.

Examples of Transformative Travel in the Bible

You, dear reader, are probably familiar enough to match the experiences of each of these to the list above. And you are to make all your travels match the above as well. Be the hero of your own jouneys.
  1. Abraham
  2. Moses
  3. Ruth
  4. Israel Wandering in the Wilderness
  5. Israel taken in Captivity and Returning from Exile
  6. The Prodigal Son
  7. Paul to Arabia and Paul on his Missionary Journies
  8. Jesus many travels between and around Galilee and Judea
Travel and Creativity

Recently discovered an article by Jonah Lehrer, the author of "Proust was a Neuroscientist", that discusses travel and creativity. He says "We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity." Check this out by him. I may expand this in a later post as this post is long enough.

Tips for Spiritually Meaningful Travel - taken from Joseph Dispenza's writings
  • Take gifts
  • Close the door - leave the past behind
  • Name the trip - Recount/review what you learned/accomplished
  • Tell the story of your trip - make it a journey - relate your experiences
  • Give thought to a memento - sometimes the finding of it, the mindful selection of it, bringing it back adds to and deepens the experience
  • Reflect and celebrate it

May all your trips be journeys - opportunities for spiritual formation and growth.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Wedding was Yesterday

Been out of town a long time. Left Saturday May 8 for Nashville to be at Derek and Catherine's graduation from Lipscomb University.

Proud parents and brother

Then I drove to Memphis to spend the night with Marcus and fly to Rochester, NY for the 56th International Instrumentation Symposium. I have been laptopless for some time and lost track of a lot of things. The computer in the hotel business center was a big help but still not satisfactory. Arrived in Memphis late Friday night. And drove back to Nashville to get ready for the big event of Monday, Derek and Catherine's wedding.

Dorothy and Catherine

More pictures are on my Facebook site.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Some of my favorite tweets

1. Virtual J. of Laser

Luminescent properties of Eu3+ activated tungstate based novel red-emitting phosphors #laser about 7 hours ago via Google

2. Jimmy Adcox

The people dancing are thought crazy by those who can't here the music. @alanhirsch #futuretravelers (via @willmancini) about 11 hours ago via Twitterrific

3. Virtual J. of Laser

Millijoule-class Yb-doped pulsed fiber laser operating at 977?nm #laser 2:07 PM May 5th via Google I want one of these!

4. Leonard Sweet

Nothing exists until it is called into existence by relationship: thus saith Schroedinger’s cat; thus sayeth Large Hadron Collider (LHC)? 7:40 PM Apr 18th via web

5. Virtual J. of Laser

Femtosecond laser-drilling-induced HgCdTe photodiodes #laser 10:01 AM Mar 23rd via Google

6. Virtual J. of Laser

High-peak-power subnanosecond passively Q-switched ytterbium-doped fiber laser #laser 4:00 PM Mar 15th via Google and one of these too!

7. Max Lucado

You can't handle the future untli u make peace with your past. Join us now @ 11:38 AM Mar 7th via Echofon

8. Lady Gaga

Isn't it interesting how one singing voice is (while subjective), either good or bad. But a CROWD of people singing, ALWAYS sounds beautiful 3:44 PM Mar 6th via web

9. Adrien apricotica

After several months of being ignored I tried to capture the interest of my former stalker, but it seems there's a 15% restalking fee. :( 10:34 AM Feb 26th via web

10. Verified Account TheBosha

Creativity is just sanctified sneakiness. 1:39 AM Feb 26th via web

11. Max Lucado

Write today’s worries in sand. Chisel yesterday’s victories in stone. 8:26 AM Jan 29th via web

12. Leonard Sweet

“If someone asks me how to find God, I say, find someone to love and you will find God.” late Reuel Howe 7:01 AM Jan 29th via web Retweeted by you and 9 others

13. Leonard Sweet

computers becoming more human & humans becoming more cyborgian; world of matter is animating & world of animation is materializing 12:31 PM Dec 14th, 2009 via web

14. Max Lucado

Make friends with whatever comes next.Embrace it.Accept it.Don't resist it. 8:00 AM Dec 6th, 2009 via API

15. Jimmy Adcox

Tyler Parten died heroically while serving in Afghanistan. His vision was humanitarian 12:35 PM Nov 18th, 2009 via Twitterrific

16. Jimmy Adcox

You'll never do anything creative,innovative or worldchanging if u FEAR criticism.Pioneers r easy targets 4 arrows!Mt10:28 (via @RickWarren 6:13 PM Sep 21st, 2009 via Twitterrific

17. Bob Chisholm

Henry Chadwick, The Early Church, p. 56 - "The most potent single cause of Christian success … care for the poor, for widows and orphans …" 1:16 PM Sep 18th, 2009 via

18. Max Lucado

Unleash a worry army.Share your feelings w/a few loved ones.Ask them to pray w/ & for you.Less worry on your part means happiness on theirs. 8:01 AM Sep 18th, 2009 via web

19. Leonard Sweet

My fav lines from Welsh poet/tramp W. H. Davies (d.1940): "Time never turns a thought to gold/Unless a tear has made it wet" 7:52 AM Sep 18th, 2009 via web

20. Leonard Sweet

How do we move churches from the defensive mentality of fortification to the offensive attitude of exploration? 12:18 PM Sep 5th, 2009 via web

and my Most Favorite

Max Lucado MaxLucado Here is an idea. Assume it's going to work out for the best. Isn't Romans 8:28 still in the Bible?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Language Log

It's time to find some new and interesting web sites. Came across this blog this morning.

Language Log

At that site I noticed that Geoff Nunberg is a contributor. I used to hear him give short pieces on language on NPR. Always enjoyed them. Here is his Berkeley site.

Geoffrey Nunberg

LinkBoth these sites have links to other very interesting sites and people. Plan to spend a little more time at these.

On the personal side, our life has been full and meaningful. We trekked to DC last weekend to look for housing for my younger son and his soon-to-be wife. Ate at a good German restaurant. Walked around Georgetown where he will matriculate in medicine come August. Walked around George Washington University where she will be in Law school. They graduate from Lipscomb U. this week end.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back from San Antonio

Wife and I visited my sister and her husband in San Antonio over the weekend. Had a great time being with them. Saturday we trekked a little north of there to Fredericksburg, a place settled by Germans in the 1800's. A place of charm and gemutlichkeit. The main street has many interesting places to eat and shop. This caught my attention.

As did this.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Embodied Spirituality

Re Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World I found an interesting snippet from a review Here when my search strategy was 'embodied spirituality' and her name.

One of her goals is to abolish the distinctions we make between church and world, sacred and secular, spirit and flesh, body and soul. Any place or thing can mediate the sacred, and so we can make an altar in the world as well as in the church......

From these sources and her own experiences Taylor commends twelve spiritual practices, but to call them "spiritual" can be misleading, for most of all she commends a fleshly, embodied spirituality. She writes one chapter each on vision, reverence, incarnation, groundedness, wilderness, community, vocation, sabbath, physical labor, breakthrough, prayer, and benediction. Taylor's book raised a cluster of interesting questions for me.

I chose that search strategy because of getting a similar feel in the Cornel West reader. Am half way through that book. I am captivated by occasional snippets like this

"..always viewing oneself as embedded and embodied and also indebted to those who came before.."

"In short, a deep blues sensibility that highlights concrete existence, history, struggle, lived experience and joy."

The above is instructive to me because too often I'm like the people for whom Randy Olson wrote Don't Be Such a Scientist. Living in the cold, remote, dull and abstract.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Additional Thoughts about God

Thanks for the comments Jeff and S. P. Some time the first year of my doctorate program at the U. of VA, have forgotten whether fall of 74 or spring of 75. we would arrive to class to find some one had written on the blackboard "Josh is coming". This occurred throughout campus. Eventually we learned it was Josh McDowell. When the time arrived he spoke to a very large crowd at the school's largest venue. Remember him pointing out his wife and saying "Eat your heart out guys." That was pretty cool for those days. To affirm the goodness of love and desire. One of the other prominent memories of his talk had to do with the inerrancy of scripture. He set the stage by describing a man he knew and respected who was a wonderful scholar of Greek and a Godly man as well. This student of the word dedicated twenty five years to the study of the alledged descrepiencies of the accounts in the Gospels and after that long dedicated period, he was finally able to harmonize all of them to show there were no contradictions. I thought to myself that if that is what it takes, then surely he's working off the wrong model. Square peg round hole. Inerrancy is the wrong model for understanding scripture and frankly differences are what they are.

I finished "The Case for God" by Armstrong on a plane a few months ago. And in concert with S. P. she describes the career and thoughts of Tillich on God. I once had a friend who was a fan of Tillich and he gave me some feel for his thought. Have thought all these years that I needed read up on him more. S. P., what do you suggest I read? You mentioned Dynamics of Faith, is that a good place to start? Anyway, she lifts this from his Systematic Theology:

"God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him." That sounds like Peter Rollins to me.

and she cites this from D. M. Brown's Ultimate Concern: Tillich in Dialogue

"We can no longer speak of God easily to anybody, because he will immediately question: "Does God exist?" Now the very asking of that question signifies that the symbols of God have become meaningless. For God, in the question, has become one of the innumerable objects in time and space which may or may not exist. And this is not the meaning of God at all."

But Tillich was not a complete innovator here. Armstrong in her book A History of God discusses the Cappadocians (two Gregories and a Cyril) saying:

"As Gregory of Nyssa said, every concept of God is a mere simulacrum, a false likeness, an idol: it could not reveal God himself. Christians must be like Abraham, who, in Gregory's version of his life, laid aside all ideas about God and took hold of a faith which was 'unmixed and pure of any concept.' In his Life of Moses, Gregory insisted that 'the true vision and the knowledge of what we seek consists precisely in not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility."

I will continue to ponder the idea of Tillich's that there can be no such thing as an atheist. One of my Twitter and Facebook friends is a minister in Jonesboro, AR who mentioned that Helen Keller said that she always knew God was there but she didn't know the name for what she felt until later.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Indirect Approach to Happiness, Truth, God and All

Am reading a wonderful book, Parker Palmer's The Promise of Paradox. Written thirty years ago but is quite up to date in assessing our culture.

But personal well-being is one of those strange things that eludes those who aim directly at it and comes to those who aim elsewhere. It was best said in the words of Jesus: "He who seeks his life will lose it, and he who loses his life . . . will find it" (Matthew 10:39).

from Parker J. Palmer The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life - 3rd edition, Ch4 A Place Called Community page 72, published by Jossey-Bass.

It just so happens that I recall several other posts I've made along these lines.

from June 4, 2008

Genuine Truth in Temporal Existence - K. Jaspers

from a Karl Jasper's lecture in 1935, in the middle of his discussion of Nietsche and Kierkegaard:

Masks: With this basic idea is connected the fact that both, the most open and candid of thinkers, had a misleading aptitude for concealment and masks. For them masks neccessarily belong to the truth. Indirect communication becomes for them the sole way of communicating genuine truth, indirect communication, as expression, is appropriate to the ambiguity of genuine truth in temporal existence, in which process it must be grasped through sources in every Existenz.

From "Reality, Man and Existence: Essential Works of Existentialism" ed by H. J. Blackham. Bantam Books. (I bought this book in 1974 and forgot about it until recently uncovering it while going through my things).

Monday, February 27, 2006

Kierkegaard Quote

from Soren Kierkegaard*

"First and foremost, no impatience . . . A direct attack only strengthens a person in his illusion, and at the same time embitters him. There is nothing that requires such gentle handling as an illusion, if one wishes to dispel it. If anything prompts the prospective captive to set his will in opposition, all is lost. . . [The indirect method. . . . loving and serving the truth, arranges everything. . . . and then shyly withdraws (for love is always shy), so as not to witness the admission which he makes to himself alone before God - that he has lived hitherto in an illusion."

I have been all these people: attacker, attacked, and the one under an illusion. Wish that years ago I had read this and taken to heart.

*from p. 93 of Mapping Postmodernism by Robert C. Greer, 2003 Intervarsity Press. His footnote is the following: Soren Kierkegaard, The Point of View of My Work as an Author, in The Modern Tradition: Backgrounds of Modern Literature, ed. Richard Ellmann and Charles Feidelson Jr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 751; cited in Taylor, Myth of Certainty, pp. 25-26

Saturday, January 09, 2010

On Crying

A Facebook friend, Greg Bagley - minister and fellow Harding U. grad, had this quote in a Facebook entry. I thought it was great:

by Washington Irving,

"There's a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable love."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

He Affirms the Cosmos Will Be Made Right

This is beautiful. Written by an evangelical Christian man, Steven Garber, who has spent a life ministering in the political realm. Excerpts:

There is not a week in my life when I do not think about the tensions of the now-but-not-yet nature of the Kingdom, where Jesus has made all things new, and yet where we still do not see that reality completely incarnate in history. I have to make peace with proximate justice, even as I ache for hope and history to finally and fully rhyme.
Even after a lifetime of bumping up against the brokenness of life, seeing and hearing the wounds of both persons and polities, I still believe that the vision of vocations as salt and light—John Stott calls them affective commodities, transforming their environments—sends us into the world week by week, year after year, with callings to care about the way things are and ought to be. Bono echoes this vision in his reflection on his own vocation: "I'm a musician. I write songs. I just hope that when the day is done, I'll have torn a little corner off of the darkness."

If that can be true of me, of you, then we will have made peace with the doing of proximate justice. And that is not a small thing for people who yearn for the whole cosmos to be made right, and who know that someday it will be.

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