Monday, December 17, 2012

More on the Nature of God from Dorothee Soelle

My days are quite busy with my new business, the Holiday Season, and the pandemonium related to getting our house repaired from the recent insult to it.  And then there was the Sandy Hook school incident.  Haven't had time for sustained thought and meditation.  Dorothee has a distinct version of feminist theology and it makes sense to me, what I understand of it.  

From Theology for Skeptics (Dorothee Soelle)

- Highlight Loc. 401-5 | Added on Friday, November 30, 2012, 06:33 AM

Carter Heyward, one of the leading voices of systematic theology between Christianity and post-Christianity, speaks of God the "power-in-relationship" which lets us take part in the power of life.4 In fact God is power, but precisely not the relationless, self-sufficient power of the ruler who also uses force when necessary. Modernity has given its answer to this authoritarian God: it has made him superfluous. He no longer has a role to play. He is not scientifically applicable. But is the authoritarian male God all that has been meant within the Jewish and Christian traditions by the title "God"? What happens with these other traditions, and how do they relate to the scientific model of control?
- Highlight Loc. 414-19 | Added on Friday, November 30, 2012, 06:38 AM

Unresisting submission to the force that does not allow justic in trade relations, that builds peace on the basis of militarism, and that further destroys or replaces creation has two roots.  One is patriarchal Christianity, which is fixated on authority: the authoritarian God is still implored helplessly in the expectation that sometime he will yet intervene. The other root of subjection is the post-religious belief in male science - no longer understood humanistically - which governs over those subjected impotently to it in the manner of an ancient god of fate. The old God can at most represent a kind of protection from catastrophes for true believers, as Christian fundamentalism imagines; he does not have liberating qualities.

- Highlight Loc. 428-31 | Added on Saturday, December 15, 2012, 09:27 PM

In feminist theology, therefore, the issue is not about exchanging pronouns but about another way of thinking of transcendence. Transcendence is no longer to be understood as being independent of everything and ruling over everything else, but rather as being bound up in the web of life. Goethe says in his aphorisms about love: "Voluntary dependence, the most beautiful state, and how would it be possible without love?" God is no less voluntarily dependent than all of us can be through love. That means that we move from God-above-us to God-within-us and overcome false transcendence hierarchically conceived.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Flood Stories

On Friday after Thanksgiving while in Arkansas we heard that a water line break occurred in our Knoxville home with water coming out from under the front and back doors.  Neighbors peeking through the door window could see that the ceiling had come down in places.  So, we began a chain of phones call with insurance, a mitigation company, a helpful neighbor and family and hurried to cover the five hundred miles home expeditiously.  Fortunately nothing of importance, like pictures, books, cherished objects, etc. was damaged.  Mainly floors and ceiling.  The origin was a plastic nut attached to a commode water tank that failed and allowed water to be sprayed in the upstairs master bath.  Likely occurred not long after we left on Wednesday.  A neighbor cut the water off on Thursday.  Mitigation began Friday evening.  The picture to the left was taken in what we call the office room.  We are not worried much about this.  We are being treated fairly by our insurance and service companies.  It has been quite disruptive to our routine but, so be it. 

It has been my privilege to hear a number of flood stories from various people I have run into since then.  For whenever I describe what happened to us, the ones with whom I'm discussing will have their stories to tell.  I never knew water leakage problems were so widespread.  There must be a fascination with this type of problem that other difficult house situations do not exhibit.  There is something about water and what it can do that goes deep into the human psyche and this has been manifested to me by this event. 

I never watched the Phil Donahue show much.  It was the precursor to Oprah Winfrey and earlier in the day so I only had the opportunity if sick or on vacation.  One thing he said in one of those rare shows made a very big impression on me.  He related why he was oriented toward communicating with women and what he admired about them.  He said that if you have a group of women meeting together and one of them shows up with a cast on her leg, the other ladies will ask how it happened, how does she feel, what did the doctor say, ie. focus on the person with the cast.  He said when a man with a cast joins a group of men, it will be a competition of each saying in essence, "you should hear what happened to me"  or "I've got one better than that."  Some of my acquaintances have been like that but others have been more empathetic.  There are a couple of guys I know that if I were to tell them I had won a Nobel prize in Physics, they would have to top it with some story of theirs. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Re: Theology for Skeptics by Dorothee Soelle

My interests roam around randomly.  The Kindle makes this easier to do.  After the football games Saturday and with my wife asleep on the couch I would read one thing for a while and then another.  Ended up reading from five different books that night.  I'll be perusing something and the reference they give causes me to shop the Kindle bookstore and then that leads me to other interesting things and on and on.  Somehow convinced myself that I needed to download Theology for Skeptics by Dorothee Soelle.  Why would a Southern white guy geek like myself be interested in her?  Well, amazingly, I was introduced to her by an article in Wineskins!  This publication is relatively progressive for the Churches of Christ.  I was quite surprised to discover a book review of another of her books, The Silent Cry - Mysticism and Resistance.  Which I bought and read six years ago.  Loaned out my copy.  Dorothee was born the same year as my Dad, 1929.  She came from the same Protestant group as Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  She was Protestant and a Mystic.  She was a feminist.  Come to think of it.  I've never read anything by an authentic feminist.  Only bumper sticker type snippets from the right and the left.  Here are some interesting quotes I've encountered so far in Theology for Skeptics. 

Theology for Skeptics (Dorothee Soelle)
- Highlight Loc. 91-96

I am reminded by this way of thinking about God of  a cheeky song from Vienna, in which a young man  from a wealthy home carries out all possible mischief at the expense of others and then in the refrain sings  reassuringly: 'Papa will set things right." Many  believers have never gone beyond this childish image of  God; they have never learned to assume responsibility  themselves. Their relationship to God remains childish;  they do not want to be friends of God but want to  remain subordinates and dependents. But must we really speak in this way? God is mighty,  we are helpless - is that all?

- Highlight Loc. 101-4

This woman (whom Dorothy met at a church meeting in Hamburg) did not look up to heaven in order to be  comforted by an Almighty Father. She looked within  and around herself. She found "that of God," as the  Quakers often say, in herself, the strength for resistance,  the courage for a clear no in a world that is drunk  on the blood of the innocent. And she found another  gift of the Spirit, the help of other brothers and sisters.  She was not alone. She did not submit herself to a God
who was falsely understood as fate.

- Highlight Loc. 112-13 |

I did not  rid myself of God like many who had handed over  responsibility to God alone; rather I grasped that God  needs us in order to realize what was intended in  creation.

- Highlight Loc. 185-88

The most important questions about the dominant  theology posed by an emerging feminist theology are  directed, iconoclastically, against phallocratic fantasies,  against the adoration of power. Why do people venerate  a God whose most important quality is power, whose  interest is subjection, whose fear is equality? Why  worship a being who is addressed as "Lord," whose  theologians must testify to his omnipotence because  power alone is not enough for him? Why should we  honor and love a being who does not transcend the  moral level of contemporary culture as shaped by men,  but instead establishes it?

- Highlight Loc. 208-12 |

When it is understood that we can speak only symbolically   about God, every symbol that sets itself up as  absolute must be relativized. We cannot live without  symbols, but we must relativize them and surpass them  iconoclastically. God in fact transcends our speech about  God, but only when we do not lock God into prisons  of symbols. Feminist theology does not deny that  "father" is one mode of speaking about God, but when  we are forced to make it the only mode, the symbol  becomes God's prison. All the other symbol words  which people have used to express their experience of  God are thus repressed by means of this obligatory  language or else pushed down to a lower level on the  hierarchy.

- Highlight Loc. 220-21 |

To be free of images of dominance,   theological language can go back to the mystical  tradition. "Wellspring of all good things," "living  wind," "water of life," "light," are symbols of God without   authority or power and without a chauvinistic  flavor.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Supernatural Rationalists?

Some ten or so years ago I learned of a Church of Christ thought leader who said that "we" were unique among conservative religious groups in that "we" have a both a high view of scripture and a high view of reason.  It struck me as expressing a lot of truth.  Most of the rest of the religious world holds that the two are mutually exclusive.  I think our spiritual primogenitor, Alexander Campbell, could be characterized both as a rationalist and inerrantist.  From a hundred years ago comes an illustration pertinent to my personal history.  My Dad related to me many years ago that his Grandaddy as a young man was taught by his older brothers, who were Baptist ministers, that he needed to have a conversion experience in order become a Christian.  However, as he related to my Dad, he could not seem to get it the Spirit or the feeling they said he should have.  Eventually Grandaddy found the Church of Christ where an emotional experience was NOT required for getting right with God and where emotions, feeling, and the miraculous in the modern world are downplayed.  He was told to just follow clear and easy steps culminating in baptism and that would do it.  Grandaddy was a fan of a minister named Bynum Black.  I have a 1960's  facsimile of a periodical, the Eye-Opener, published by this minister back in 1900.  I grew up in the county where this originated.

It is common even today for people to communicate that they have had a call to the ministry.  Usually it is not conveyed as a direct communication from the spirit world or from God but sometimes, I'm not sure.  My Dad in my younger years would preach a skepticism that people received a supernatural communication to preach.  It was part of the family heritage evidently.  Below is a cartoon from the issue making fun of this.

The cartoon mocks a man who is out plowing his field who interprets sounds made by his donkey to be a message from God and his call to preach. 

This and other examples I may describe sometime later illustrate how our group downplays feelings and the supernatural in comparison to other religious groups.  Accounts of the miraculous that occurred after New Testament times were/are always met with skepticism.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Thoughts on Consciousness

Three Quarks Daily is a web site that presents numerous interesting comments and links to thoughtful and thought provoking writings.  Yesterday I came across a TQD link to a discussion of Thomas Nagel's new book, Mind and Cosmos.  The Amazon blurb summarizes: 

The modern materialist approach to life has conspicuously failed to explain such central mind-related features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, and value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology.

There was a time in my life when I could not perceive a way out of reductive physicalism.    It says, in a nutshell, that our world is comprised of atoms and these atoms follow unyielding laws.   So, we are therefore  merely complicated robots.  Laplace perceived this and expressed this way back in 1814, (lifted from Wikipedia).

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
—Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities

But I also knew that the way out of this would have something to do with the nature of consciousness.  The material reductionists like Daniel Dennet and Richard Dawkins are wrong.  Science, according to Nagel, has not been able to explain conscious experience.  I agree.  And, he contends that it cannot.  I'm an agnostic on that one.  But, the important thing to me is that wrestling with the issue helps to point the way to meaning, purpose, God, and spirituality in general.  The long history of the cosmos has been a development toward consciousness.  It must be a property of the universe and a non material one at that.  Or another way of looking at it is that the universe "desired" to become conscious.

Why include the picture above?  Well, it is good to show pictures at least once in a while and this is one I took recently.   It is of my wife gazing at olives on a tree in the medieval town of San Gimignano in Tuscany.  I'm fascinated by trees and their meaning.  The image produces as we look at it certain feelings, a whole wealth of them.  How?  That is the big mystery. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Second Coming of Christ: Our Role and Technology

This fascinates me.  Something to contemplate.

from Christ in Evolution by Ilia Delio

- Highlight Loc. 3000-3006 (Kindle)

In this respect, the consummation of the universe, the parousia or second coming of Christ, will ultimately be determined by the choices of the human community. Panikkar* writes that the parousia of Christ is not separate from the Eucharistic and risen Christ;it is not another incarnation or a second Christ appearing somewhere. We have been warned by Jesus in the Gospels not to believe in any appearance of the coming Messiah here or there. Rather, we are coworkers with God and stewards of creation. The second coming of Christ is the emergence of Christ in us, the human community, when we become reflective not only individually but collectively and live in the spirit of crucified love. Jesus came once;now the new Adam, the new earth, must be fully formed in us if this universe is to find its completion in God.

- Highlight Loc. 3124-32

Philip Hefner indicated that if we are to speak of religion, it must be a religion that can encompass cyborgs and technosapiens. It cannot be merely a religious way of dealing with technology, as if it were external to who we are; rather, technology has become part and parcel of who we are.** When we participate in this drive for new possibilities through technology, we participate also in God. This is the dimension of holiness in technology. The difference between a nontheological and a theological interpretation of technology, Hefner claims, is that the one says the transcending drive is epiphenomenal, a surface phenomenon, while theology says it is rooted in the very nature of things. The epiphenomenalist says that transcendence is evolution’s way of promoting fitness. The theologian asserts that evolution has itself been designed to enable a selftranscending system of reality. In Hefner’s view, the union of technology and humanity—the emergence of techno sapiens—is integral to the transcendent evolutionary trend.

*Raimon Panikkar was the son of a Spanish Roman Catholic mom and a Hindu father.  He was uniquely situated by birth and by his studies to pursue inter-religious dialogue.

**Technology and Human Becoming by Philip Hefner

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Relevancy22: Emergent Christianity - Emergent Christian Topics, Issues and Biblical Studies: How Full Is Your Life? Is It Filled with the Important Stuff?

This is from:

Relevancy22: Emergent Christianity - Emergent Christian Topics, Issues and Biblical Studies: How Full Is Your Life? Is It Filled with the Important Stuff?

How Full Is Your Life? Is It Filled with the Important Stuff?

Lessons of Life
from a mayonaise jar, some golf balls,
and a couple of cans of Beer...
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 beers....
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full.
They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.
Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full.
The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'
The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.
The students laughed....
'Now,' said the professor as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things---your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.
The sand is everything else---the small stuff.
'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Spend time with your children.
Spend time with your parents.
Visit with grandparents.
Take your spouse out to dinner.
Play another 18 rounds of golf.
There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.
Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter.
Set your priorities.
The rest is just sand.
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented.
The professor smiled and said, 'I'm glad you asked.'
The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers with a friend.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Joseph Campbell and Paul Broun

From Joseph Campbell's Myths to Live By and the chapter written in 1961 titled "The Impact of Science on Myth", referring to Sigmund Freud he writes:

His psychology, however, being of an essentially rational kind, insufficiently attentive to the more deeply based, irrational impulsions of our nature, he assumed that when a custom or belief was shown to be unreasonable, it would presently disappear. And how wrong he was can be shown simply by pointing to any professor of philosophy at play in a bowling alley: watch him twist and turn after the ball has left his hand, to bring it over to the standing pins.
And thus Freud, like Frazer, judged the worlds of myth, magic, and religion negatively, as errors to be refuted, surpassed, and supplanted finally by science.


An altogether different approach is represented by Carl G. Jung, in whose view the imageries of mythology and religion serve positive, life-furthering ends. According to his way of thinking, all the organs of our bodies—not only those of sex and aggression—have their purposes and motives, some being subject to conscious control, others, however, not. Our outward-oriented consciousness, addressed to the demands of the day, may lose touch with these inward forces; and the myths, states Jung, when correctly read, are the means to bring us back in touch. They are telling us in picture language of powers of the psyche to be recognized and integrated in our lives, powers that have been common to the human spirit forever, and which represent that wisdom of the species by which man has weathered the millenniums. Thus they have not been, and can never be, displaced by the findings of science, which relate rather to the outside world than to the depths that we enter in sleep. Through a dialogue conducted with these inward forces through our dreams and through a study of myths, we can learn to know and come to terms with the greater horizon of our own deeper and wiser, inward self. And analogously, the society that cherishes and keeps its myths alive will be nourished from the soundest, richest strata of the human spirit.

Yes, "imageries of mythology and religion serve positive, life-furthering ends".  That is why when the literal nature of these important imageries are questioned, some people feel threatened.  Prime contemporary examples are such as Paul Broun who recently claimed that 'evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.'  Then there is Todd Akin who says evolution is not a matter of science.  And these two people sit on the House Science and Technology Committee.  Amazing.  You see it often, in our postmodern times.  In the nineties we were told by the postmodernists, who were usually considered to be leftists, that there is no truth only interpretation.  In the US,there is a subset of people who consider thermselves to be conservative who apparently agree with this and who think that if they believe hard enough, things they fear like evolution and climate change, will go away. 

We still need to learn to the right way to keep our myths alive while at the same time not lying to ourselves.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Update Sept 27

It has been an eventful past several weeks.  On Sept 5,  a Wednesday, my retirement date was moved up a week and a  half to Sept 19.  In the remaining two weeks I had a trip to Dayton, OH to the Turbine Engine Technology Symposium for  couple of
days.  Also had to plan and pack for a field test at the U. of TN Space Institute/Arnold Engineering Development Center.  Fortunately it was postponed to this week, ie after I retired from ORNL.  After leaving ORNL on Wed, I flew to Orlando on Friday for a weekend of International Automation Society business.  Flew home Monday where after a few hours I drove to Tullahoma for this week's tests.  On top of that, workmen are replacing brick on one get de of our house.  Our grandson had hernia surgery yesterday in Memphis.  That is part of the busy story of the last several weeks.  Did get to read the latest Phyllis Tickle book on Emergence Christianity:  What it is and Where it is Going and Why it matters.  

Here is an interesting link.

This is my first post from my Android Tablet.  Still on the learning curve with it.

Friday, September 07, 2012

John Caputo Quote not relativism or skepticism, as its uncomprehending critics almost daily charge, but minutely close attention to detail, a sense for the complexity and multiplicity of things, for close reading, for detailed histories, for sensitivity to differences.  The postmodernists think the devil is in the details, but they also have reason to hope that none of this will antagonize God. 

John Caputo

quoted from the epigraph of Tony Jones' book The New Christians:  Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

Next thing to do is find out where Tony got the quote.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Next Stage

This has been and will continue to be a big year of change for Steve and Dorothy.  Our grandson, Lucas, was born July 6.  Now I know why all the grandparents I've run into through the years are so happy.  What a rush it is.

Next thing. In two weeks I'm retiring from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  That is after company service of thirty three years.  I'm pumped, excited and don't plan to hang up my lab coat just yet.  My buddies who retired before me formed a company last year.  They got their first contract last month.  Will join Emerging Measurements Co.  Still plan to be active in the International Society of Automation (the ISA), the NATO Advanced Vehicle Panel on Test Cell Instrumentation, the Propulsion Instrumentation Working Group (PIWG), and research and development in luminescence based sensing.

And here is some fun.

Weather Girl Goes Rogue

Sunday, August 26, 2012

For My Grandmother

My Grandmother and My Mom in early 1935.
My grandmother, Esther Pauline Goble Van Hooser was raised on a farm in SE Missouri outside of Poplar Bluff. The arc of her life has thus far seen the introduction of radio, commercial aviation, television, space travel and landing on the moon, the computer revolution, countless medical advances, the internet and smart phones.  Even when I was young she would talk about these changes and discuss them in the course of telling stories of what life for her family was like growing up.  It has been one of the means by which she conveys to her loved ones their heritage and identity as family and children of God. This sense of history and of progress is something I learned from her.  I have a distinct memory from when she came to visit us when my brother Tim was born. He was a few days old when this happened so it is sometime in August 1960.  The space program was in the news prominently and the Echo communications satellite had just been launched.  Mom, Grandmother, and the rest of us went out in the evenings and watched it cross the sky.  One evening as Tim was lying on the couch, she said to me, a nine year old thrilled at all things having to do with science and space, "Just think, he might live to see them land on the moon."   From that I learned optimism and justification for interest in such things as well at their importance.  Little did we know how soon that significant event would come about.  It would only take about nine years.  One of her favorite memories involves her family traveling across the US to California in a Model T when she was just seven.  She has told the story a number of times to me.  It was must have been a formative experience for her and a journey, not a trip.  She survived Tetanus as a child. She and my grandfather Mac were married in the midst of the depression and after a year of farming, they did as so many from the South, they migrated to Michigan where it was possible to find employment. They raised their family in Pontiac, MI. The extended families of Pauline and Mac often looked to them for assistance with their needs as they were stable, responsible, and supportive. They returned South to Searcy, Arkansas upon Mac's retirement in 1972. To this day, at age 95, she continues in various church activities, most recently she made dozens of dresses for a mission in Panama.  She still teaches Sunday school.  Her knowledge of the Bible is intimate and she discusses the various people in the Bible as if they are friends and acquaintances. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

West Ridge Church of Christ/ Eastside Church of Christ of Pocahontas, AR

Two pages from Arkansas Christians:  A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph County 1800-1995, Arkansas by Dr. Michael L. Wilson  Copyright 1997.

My Dad attended the old Carter School mentioned in the first sentence. The East Pocahontas Church of Christ was established around the time I was born.  I left Poky in 1966.  I knew when this church moved to Highway 62 but have never had the opportunity to meet with them.  Don't know when they changed the name to West Ridge Church of Christ.  Their present web site is .  Would like to go there as many people I once knew must attend there.  Recognized two of the deacons.  Don Wilson is likely the book author's brother.  I think Mark Futrell is the son of the late Phil Futrell who owned Futrell's Pharmacy and gave me my first job where I paid into social security. Worked at his soda fountain pulling soft drinks, making milkshakes and ice cream sundaes.

View Larger Map

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pocahontas and Randolph County Ministers in the Church of Christ

The Old Hubble Creek Church of Christ
When I was growing up in Pocahontas, Arkansas in the sixties, there were 16 Churches of Christ in Randolph County.  County population was 12,000 if I recall correctly.  Dad held meetings for many of these churches and I often went with him.  A number of ministers who became influential and well known in “the Church” have a Pocahontas connection.  The family of Reuel Lemmons, editor of the Firm Foundation from 1955-1983 was from Randolph County.  (After that, he started Image magazine.  It came along in the eighties and I like it . It folded and New Wineskins continued somewhat along those lines)  The Lemmons and Allisons and perhaps others migrated to Oklahoma in the twenties.  Reuel was about ten years old.  [Brief aside:  There was a Lemmons family reunion at the old Hubble Creek Church where I heard Reuel talk about church and family history. see picture]  My Allisons returned from OK but his parents remained.  In the first half of the 20th century, the two most important publications in the CofC were the Gospel Advocate and the Firm Foundation.  A large number of ministers came from the Lemmons family.  A. G. Lemmons the son of a Lemmons and Allison (my great aunt Hassel) of Nashville wrote some books on fasting, among other things.  He is my cousin.  A. G. has a nephew, my cousin Thom Lemmons, who was a professor at Abilene, moved to College Station, TX and has joined the larger Christian universe as writer of a number of books.   I read a nice one by him of historical fiction Mother of Faith where he crafted a story based on the lady of III John.  Ray Chester of Randolph County was also a person of influence and stature in the church.  He moved up the line and had a big Washington, DC church for a while.  Eventually he transitioned to the Disciples.  I grew up with his nephews and nieces.  Ray held us a meeting at the Pyburn Street Church of Christ some time, I guess the mid sixties.  He was different.  He didn’t quote as much scripture as was considered necessary and did not spend much time telling about how everyone else was wrong.  I listened to the adults talk and they were very disappointed in him.  Around the same time, give or take a year, Foy Wallace came to town.  He would preach 90 minutes.  He was colorful and entertaining.  One of his points made often was that the RSV was not a Version but a Perversion.  Many from the Starling family became ministers.  Too many for me to keep up with.  One down in Florida that I know about is still active and has a blog ministry.  Jerry Rushford has a connection to Reyno on the east side of the county.  He is one whose family took him to Michigan when he was young.  He is well known and well liked.  He managed a lectureship at Pepperdine for many years.  I met him for the first time at the Homecoming of the Laurel CofC here in Knoxville some months ago.  Jack Hawkins was originally from Doniphan, MO, just across the state line.  He eventually ended up in Michigan (Note to a blogging friend:I’m sure your wife’s family must have known him.)  He first served at Tasmania.  My grandmother used to talk about that church.  My mom and grandparents attended it before moving on to Keego Harbor.  I can just barely remember that KH church.   If I recall correctly, that fellowship built a new facility in Sylvan Lake and moved there around 1958 or 9.  Jack served there at some point also.  Delores Hawkins was a class mate of mine at Harding.  I think she must have been a niece of Jack or something.  My late grandfather, Mac Van Hooser was an elder at Sylvan Lake.  

Then there are the Olbricht brothers, Thomas, Glenn, and Owen.  They grew up in Thayer, MO, just across the state line.  Thomas has been a professor at Penn State, Abilene Christian, and Pepperdine U.  He is an internet acquaintance whom I met in person at the Christian Scholars Conference at Lipscomb U. in 2008.  I read his book:  Hearing God's Voice and enjoyed it very much.  Need to do a review some time.  He has a new one out that is on my list:  Reflections on My Life: in the Kingdom and the Academy.  Glenn, the one I never met, was a missionary to Germany.  Owen has had a long influential career in the Church of Christ and played a formative role in my life.  The summer after I graduated from Harding, I joined his Campaigns Northeast.  We conducted three week ministries successively in Anderson, IN; Endwell, NY; Baltimore, MD, and Northfield, NJ.  We knocked on doors and engaged people in Bible studies.  That was a real character builder.  The 3rd week culminated in a Gospel Meeting. 

Lester Perrin, a painter, was the song leader at Pyburn Street when I was growing up.  His sons were my dad’s age, roughly.  They played high school sports together.  One son, Kenny, was my Calc 1 teacher at Harding.   The next year he trekked to Pepperdine U.  His brothers, Les Jr. and Jerry, made it down to Texas and were prominent at Lubbock Christian and other places.  I get them mixed up.  One of their sons, Tim, was named President of LCU recently.  

My brother-in law’s first cousin, the late Michael Wilson, wrote a book called Arkansas Christians: A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph, County Arkansas.  I’ve referred to that to help out my memory.  This is just a smattering of what is in the book.  Mike has a cousin, John Wilson, a religion professor at Pepperdine.  Mike, about six years my elder, ended up a Disciple and died in his late fifties of a heart attack.  

Now for the Allisons.  My Dad’s Uncle Marvin Allison is 95 and the last of his generation.  He was a missionary for many years in New Zealand.  He served under the Union Avenue Church of Christ and its successor Woodland Hills, in Memphis.  Another of Dad’s first cousins, Fielden Allison, has been a missionary to Kenya since the mid-70’s.  Fielden’s sister, Joan, married one of the VanRheenen boys (I think they were from Paragould, the seat of Greene County to the east), Dwayne, who was a professor in Maine for many years before moving on to Abilene and Pepperdine or vice versa.  Doug Allison, another one, was often a song leader for many area wide youth meetings in the 80’s and 90’s.  Then there is my dad, known variously as G. W. Allison or Chick Allison or George Allison. He was raised in Pocahontas.  He was the minister at Pyburn Street the first time from 1958-66.  Then he had a stint in the mid-seventies after I was long gone from the scene.  Then another short time in the nineties.  Dad is a close friend of Jimmy Allen.  Jimmy has always credited my dad with influencing him to be a Christian.  

A Previous Post about my Dad and his Sixty Years of Preaching is here.

Above I've discussed those who grew up in or close to Pocahontas, AR who became influential in the fellowship of the Church of Christ.  There are many more.  And then there are those who sojourned for a while and left that tradition.  David Elkins is one.  He was at Harding in the mid-sixties and was a minister for a while.  Eventually he switched to Psychology and taught at Pepperdine. I've read his book Beyond Religion and did a review of it in 2005. 

Google Street View of the Pyburn Street Church of Christ

View Larger Map

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review of The Asteroid by M. R. Cates

"Night before last." she began, "I imaged this asteroid...."
My friend and co-worker of over thirty years, Mike Cates, recently published his first book, The Asteroid.  My review on Amazon is below plus some additional comments.

This riveting, fast paced book, like all good science fiction, explores what it is to be human, what lies in the future for us, and how we are to deal with the unknown that looms ahead. Many of us presume that technology will continue to progress and coupled with the knowledge that there is an immense cosmos out there, we long to engage it to answer the question "Are we alone?" This book delves into that mystery.

There was something about the book that called to my mind the 1960's television science fiction show "The Outer Limits". The twenty years prior to that included spectacular technology advances that changed how we viewed ourselves and oriented us to the future and the implications of technology. The advances included the development of the atomic bomb and atomic power, rocket science that placed people into orbit, and television to communicate and stimulate speculation about our future world and worlds that could be. I was a kid caught up in this excitement and The Outer Limits (OL) fed the thirst for such. While the book happily evoked some of those same feelings and memories of wonder, it lacked the gloom and foreboding of OL which quite often was critical of the human race and its antics. The pessimistic, dystopian visions of OL, 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 have their place and might rightly be considered an important part of the Spiritual Formation of present society. The Asteroid, on the other hand, is positive and the reader has a sense of this. We are provided with the author's view of how humans can be good natured and act rationally when confronted with the unknown and can work cooperatively, unselfishly to everyone's benefit. Oh that we could solve our problems today without the guile, subterfuge, resentment and spite that is an attribute of our current politics. The guileless main character is guided by curiosity and wonder and is a role model in that regard. 

The setting is the present and as a previous reviewer, Bill Coghlan has said, the physics is consistent and believable. Too often today's movies are indulgent and undisciplined in this regard. Here, technology is essential to the plot but it is realistic and understated, if anything. A key role is played at one point by the creative use of an optical fiber. The author is probably one of the few scientists on the planet to have worked with fiber optics continuously since the 1970's. Nevertheless he gives only the necessary amount of technical detail. It fits in a vital way rather than intrudes on the narrative.

The author draws on his scientific and technical interests to construct the story. Some of the main characters were raised in Texas, as was he. He spent a year at a French national laboratory in the 1970's and one wonders in what ways that influenced his creation of a prominent role for a French graduate student and the love by everyone of the main characters for that greatest of blessings, sharing wine and food among friends. He chose a woman as his protagonist and this is one crucial way he deviates from his own experience. This requires creativity and instincts to work. And it does.

Young women and men are involved. So yes, part of the story concerns love interests. I kept imagining how I thought things would develop between them and this held my attention. And I'm not letting you in on any secrets.  You will have to read it yourself.

Favorite quote: "Weapons were to her the ultimate symbols of human stupidity."

There are many issues and themes touched upon in the final chapters that will be beneficial as a starting point for further medication: the role of light in bringing knowledge, the nature of consciousness, what other kinds of beings may exist, how human beings may be a blessing to the cosmos and the relationship between meaning and pleasure. Curiously, given his love for music, there was but one reference I recall to music and its importance. Perhaps the next book will involve that important aspect of life.

Bacteria plus Balok, an alien of a famous episode of Star Trek.
Finally, I ran across a list of laws of good science fiction writing at The most important were that the story must 1) be good science, 2) have a sense of wonder, 3) make the world better and 4) be fun. I think this book succeeded in all of these.


Appropo to this topic and review is a timely article by Phil Plait whose blog, Bad Astronomy, I find myself reading increasingly more often. It is titled Will We Find Life in Space? And the photo to the right came from that article.

Monday, August 06, 2012

What David Lipscomb teaches about Climate Change

I'm a southern boy, all but two years of my life have been in the South.  But, when younger I wondered why those folks back in the 19th century could possibly have accepted slavery and not eliminated it as was obvious to me that they should do; and much sooner than they did and without "help".  The story of the Lipscomb family and tragedy that befell them explains in part why.

David Lipscomb was an important figure in the development of the Churches of Christ and his legacy lives on these several generations past.  Lipscomb University is named for him.  One source for the story which happened when David was a young child is in the biography Crying in the Wilderness.  It taught me a lesson about dealing with climate change. 

Lipscomb came from a very religious family and they were independent minded.  When they moved to Tennessee the extended family not only changed their physical geography but their spiritual as well.  This is reflected by the fact that David Lipscomb's father and Uncle decided that slavery was wrong and to act upon that belief.  They resolved to release their slaves.  Unfortunately, the state required payment to allow that and then freed persons had to leave.  So rather than sell their land, make the payment, and become destitute, thereby endangering everyone's health; they came up with what they thought was a better plan, that was to sell their land and travel to the slave-free state of Illinois for the emancipation.  We can fly from Memphis to Lithuania in a day, no problem, I've done it. But it was the 1830's and for them even the trip just two states northward would have taken probably weeks to accomplish and with accompanying adventures, no doubt. 

They ran into the same problem however.  But they were stuck.  To survive, they had to farm.  They would buy land, plant a crop, and wait for harvest.  It turned out to be a very wet spring.  Flooding was widespread and a malaria epidemic came through the area and claimed the life of Lipscomb's mother and some siblings and others.  They were able eventually to arrange for the liberation in Indiana.   All told, about one third of the group gave their lives for that purpose.    They returned home to Tennessee, fewer and, no doubt, saddened. 

Now for the connection with climate change.  Climate change is a science problem that is quintessentially postmodern. There are so many narratives out there making it difficult to determine who to believe. Many of them – even contradictory ones – seem reasonable on the surface.   No one study or test is absolutely decisive or free of critique. Each investigator or analyst is situated and none has the “God’s eye” objective view. No one of us has inspected each and every thermometer or retried each and every experiment or re-derived each and every equation. All of the knowledge that we have is secondary or tertiary and we seek to come up with a coherent and realistic view based on who seems most reasonable and trustworthy. With that said, I have come to the conclusion that the situation is indeed very serious and reality will eventually move everyone to that same conclusion.

I'm convinced that the main narrative of the majority of climate scientists these past twenty years is essentially correct.  It is hotter and it is due to carbon emissions, in the main.  Sure there are important issues and details that need to be understood better.  But what they said would happen is happening and that provides powerful validation in my opinion.  The most responsible skeptics it seems to me are agreeing that the climate has been changing and that humans have had at least some role in causing it. 

So accepting this as fact, how does one liberate oneself from the habits of a high carbon lifestyle? Laws and customs were not helpful enough to the Lipscombs as they tried to do the right thing and it cost them.  Thankfully we have the internet where one can find ideas and support and sometimes critical thinking about what serves the purpose and what doesn't.  I wish our churches would see it as important.  Once they are on board they could encourage and effect wonderful things. Here is a smattering of interesting links in this regard. 

Climate Change:  An Evangelical Call to Action

Catholic Climate Covenant

Operation Noah

Creation Care

Tips for Going Green

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Tree in the Garden of Eden and its Possible Origins

Thanks to Jim West who at his blog links to an article by E. Tsireli about the trees ancient religious history:

and a quote from the conclusion

“The tree has become the means of communication between man and deity, as well as a way of expressing this relationship. This strong relationship passed into the biblical text and formed the tree of life and the tree of knowledge scene,however with a very different connotation. 

……However, with respect to the tree in the Paradise story of the Bible, it seems that its role reaches its peak as it is involved in the most important and perhaps most sad event of all human kind; the Fall of Man. Nevertheless, in the Christian eschatology there is the hope in the book of Revelation that the righteous men will be allowed to eat of the tree of life in the End Times. This is the only time the figure of the Tree is used by the writers – the biblical writers in this connection- to ‘open’ and ‘close’ in some way such a great sacred Book as the Bible.”

Now, I don't believe the Fall of Man was a sad event.  It was necessary and made it possible for us to come to be.  And I believe in the happy ending at the close of Revelation.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Capitol Couple: In Absentia: Blake and Catie are now Uncle Blake a...

From my daugter-in-law in Washington.

A Capitol Couple: In Absentia: Blake and Catie are now Uncle Blake a...: Blake's brother, Marcus, recently became a father, and we are thrilled for Marcus and Suzy!  We're so bummed we're stuck up in DC while our...

Here's the video she put together on my grandson:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Simone Weil Quotes

Thanks to Len Hjalmarson for reminding me of Simone Weil in a post about her which refers to an article by May Ngo.  Based on these tantalizing and pithy quotes, I plan on exploring her in the near future.

May Ngo writes in “Responding to Simone Weil,”

       “Reading Simone Weil is like being exposed to a tornado, being hit on the head and drinking a clear glass of water all at once."

I (Steve) went to for these quotes of Simone.

This next quote is a critique of the the kind of science I learned.  I  could have used some help many years ago when I socialized/apprenticed at Harding U, Memphis U. and U. of VA for my vocation.  Of course we know more now than we did then.  People like John Haught and Teilhard du Chardin and Brian McLaren have been a big help.

“A science which does not bring us nearer to God is worthless.”


This next one says something about striving for objectivity, that is not attainable I know, but it is in our own best interest ultimately to be detached.  

“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached”


This is timely, don't you think?

 “Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention.”


And this is deep too.  

 “A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.” 


and this is a major mistake of Protestantism, in my opinion 

“In the Church, considered as a social organism, the mysteries inevitably degenerate into beliefs.”

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Quotes from Falling Upward

from Falling Upward by Richard Rohr.  Highlighted on my Kindle.

Each thing and every person must act out its nature fully, at whatever cost. It is our life's purpose, and the deepest meaning of “natural law.”

We actually respond to one another's energy more than to people's exact words or actions.

By denying their pain, avoiding the necessary falling, many have kept themselves from their own spiritual depths—and therefore have been kept from their own spiritual heights.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

From Myths to Live By

Have been gone a lot lately.   Back to Campbell's Myths to Live By

These passages contrast Freud and Jung.  Freud being the boneheaded rationalist whereas Jung  while modern does finds a wisdom and depth from the religious and mythical.

His (Freud's) psychology, however, being of an essentially rational kind, insufficiently attentive to the more deeply based, irrational impulsions of our nature, he assumed that when a custom or belief was shown to be unreasonable, it would presently disappear. And how wrong he was can be shown simply by pointing to any professor of philosophy at play in a bowling alley: watch him twist and turn after the ball has left his hand, to bring it over to the standing pins.

And thus Freud, like Frazer, judged the worlds of myth, magic, and religion negatively, as errors to be refuted, surpassed, and supplanted finally by science.

An altogether different approach is represented by Carl G. Jung, in whose view the imageries of mythology and religion serve positive, life-furthering ends. According to his way of thinking, all the organs of our bodies—not only those of sex and aggression—have their purposes and motives, some being subject to conscious control, others, however, not. Our outward-oriented consciousness, addressed to the demands of the day, may lose touch with these inward forces; and the myths, states Jung, when correctly read, are the means to bring us back in touch. They are telling us in picture language of powers of the psyche to be recognized and integrated in our lives, powers that have been common to the human spirit forever, and which represent that wisdom of the species by which man has weathered the millenniums. Thus they have not been, and can never be, displaced by the findings of science, which relate rather to the outside world than to the depths that we enter in sleep. Through a dialogue conducted with these inward forces through our dreams and through a study of myths, we can learn to know and come to terms with the greater horizon of our own deeper and wiser, inward self. And analogously, the society that cherishes and keeps its myths alive will be nourished from the soundest, richest strata of the human spirit.

They speak, therefore, not of outside events but of themes of the imagination.

Taken as referring not to any geographical scene, but to a landscape of the soul, that Garden of Eden would have to be within us.

That would seem to be the meaning of the myth when read, not as prehistory, but as referring to man’s inward spiritual state.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Fleetwood Mac-Hypnotized (High Quality) Updated Post

previous video replaced with the one above

At times I have feared that the world is one great clockwork machine just as the spiritual legacy of Isaac Newton and Thomas Jefferson and other Enlightenment thinkers has informed us. But one afternoon in 1975 I was walking past the desk of a classmate in a lab in the engineering school at the University of Virginia and this was playing. It put me in a trance at that moment and I have never forgotten it. I have replayed this music through the years and it has promised me, it has tantalized me with the tease that there is the possibility of something else. It conveys feelings that words cannot explain very easily. It has always inspired me and given me hope that the mystery of life has a positive and uplifting end. Not reduced to dreary mechanical laws devoid of hope and meaning. It has always been one of my favorite sermons. Thank you Bob Welch.  Bob wrote and performed this with Fleetwood Mac when he was with them.  Today he died.

Ironically, this video features mesmerizing astronomy pictures.  The very thing that helped our 16th and 17th century scientists begin to discover the mathematical and mechanical nature of the World.  Many thanks are due to them.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Myths to Live By

The year was 1986 and it was the Thursday a week before Thanksgiving when we learned that our second adoption attempt of the year had failed.  The young woman decided to keep her baby girl.  We were devastated.  It took five years to get pregnant with our first son.  The second one was Trisome 18 and lived five days.  We didn't know if we could get pregnant again.  Dorothy's folks drove over the next day from Memphis to Knoxville to console us.  That was nice.  We had a good time with them.  I was sad for a number of reasons.  One of the others is that I was looking for something else.  And I found it at the mall bookstore.  A book that propelled me in a mental and spiritual direction I was looking for but did not know existed.

Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell

A week later we found out Dorothy was pregnant again!  Happy Ending.

More about Myths to Live By later.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

To Be Like Jesus

The “adepts” in all religions are always forgiving, compassionate, and radically inclusive. They do not create enemies, and they move beyond the boundaries of their own “starter group” while still honoring them and making use of them. Jesus the Jew criticizes his own religion the most, yet never leaves it!

Richard Rohr "Falling Upward"

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Jesus' Unconditional Love Wins

Several months ago I downloaded to my Kindle  Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr and only in the last few weeks have given attention to it.  It is great.  I'm clipping about every other paragraph because it has a pithy way of saying something of great meaning to me.  Here is one:

Jesus touched and healed anybody who desired it and asked for it, and there were no other prerequisites for his healings. Check it out yourself. Why would Jesus' love be so unconditional while he was in this world, and suddenly become totally conditional after death? Is it the same Jesus? Or does Jesus change his policy after his resurrection?


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Itinerant Mind

Discovered an interesting web site recently titled Itinerant Mind.  I responded to a post regarding an article in the Stone Campbell Journal from 2010 titled Evolution as Mythology.  Itinerant Mind summarized the contents of the article.  There is an inclination inside of me to want to attempt to refute some of the things the authors assert and imply about the legitimacy and validity of evolution.  But I will not.  Instead, it may be noted that mythology and "not true" are not synonymous.  Humans must have vibrant and viable myths to live by.  And note  in my blog post below, the quote from Richard Rohr where he says that historical cultures all understood this.  Throughout human history we have crafted narratives concerning our origin which are designed to be useful for our living.  Since evolution has to do with who we are and where we came from, it is inevitable that we should weave it into our story.  And we will do it well and we will do it poorly.  I reckon that we do not live at the end of history and down the road our myths will continue to change and adapt with our conditions and knowledge. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

What is Faith II

This quote from Falling Upward by Richard Rohr is a beginning to my previous question regarding the nature of Faith.  Things that have to do with sentient creatures who have such a wide range of response due to their feelings and their interactions are on a different plane and of a different nature than the consistent and mechanical world of matter.  Weather and climate is an example of the latter. 

"Western rationalism no longer understands myths, and their importance, although almost all historic cultures did."

So we have over literalized the Bible and its meaning. A scientific, constitutional reading of the Bible is misguided. 

"You cannot imagine a new space fully until you have been taken there. I make this point strongly to help you understand why almost all spiritual teachers tell you to “believe” or “trust” or “hold on.” They are not just telling you to believe silly or irrational things. They are telling you to hold on until you can go on the further journey for yourself, and they are telling you that the whole spiritual journey is, in fact, for real—which you cannot possibly know yet."

It appears that in regard to "faith", the evangelical world thinks it is a badge of honor if one can make the leap of faith even if the evidence is not conclusive.  The explanation that Rohr puts forth is that experience or journey can take us to where we need to be.  I've got to think that the content of what one becomes confident about is different in these contrasting cases.

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