31.1.04

Hope?

I have written before about Michael Crichton's work. It, again, got me thinking about something. I just finished watching "Jurassic Park". I was thinking that there are several things I like about Crichton. His books have a pretty common theme. People create or discover something that they are unable to handle, and in their arrogance and over-confidence they end up messing up big time. This allows Crichton to embody in his novels two things, though one definitely wins in the end of each of his books. These two things are the hope and ability of modern confidence, as well as the despair and uncertainity of postmodern despair. Ok, those are two little neat categories that don't quite work, I know that, but as much as they are broad generalizations they fit.

I admit it. I like the hope and confidence that we used to have. I enjoy reading Arthur C. Clarke, and I liked 20,000 leagues under the sea. I miss it sometimes, for it seems largely absent from the people I know. I remember a conversation I had with a poor man, as he was selling copies of "Our Voice" (which is a newspaper here in edmonton that expresses the views of those who don't often get to express their views). We started talking about books we had read, and he said that he liked older books because back then people still had hope. It was very strange to get a short lecture on hope from a man in his position. It made what he said more powerful, and it made me realize that I was the poorer man of the two of us. We talked about how people had hoped in the wrong things, and he told me that I needed to hope in God. He said that my generation viewed past failures as reason to give up, instead of reasons to push forward, and that we needed was something we could trust. He told me that he had only ever found it in God. Like I said, it was odd getting such a lecture, but truth be told I needed it.

Of course, I also like the humility that Crichton conveys; all the hopes and dreams made real by science that end up having been made with big teeth, and quickly become uncontrolable. He has a point, we are arrogant. We don't know what were doing. I, like many my age, am very cynical. I had a conversation today with a friend of man, a very smart man, about how to use power responsibly, and what implications there are towards how we act when we consider that we know nothing with certainty. At one point he mentioned that a friend of his was going to try and motivate university students towards some kind of political action. I responded that we are, in general, to apathetic. But my friend claimed that his friend knew of a way to use our cynicism to get us to help him. We both agreed that our cynicism was probably the only thing stronger than our apathy. I am not so sure about using cynicism to motivate, but for other reasons.
Regardless, I share the uncertainty about how to act with wisdom.

I know what I believe about wisdom, and what I believe about its source. I believe it comes from God. I wish I could just tell everyone to try living by the ten commandmants for a week and see what a difference it makes. Most likely the only way to convince anyone is to live it; but I lack confidence in my ability to do that as well. Pray for me, for wisdom. Pray for yourselves to. You may or may not believe in the bible, but I do (and as vague as that statement is, I am not going to qualify it here). "If any of your lacks wisdom, he should ask God,"


30.1.04

Warning: This is one of those theological blurs. As well, there are likely many mistakes in my arguments. Please do point them out.

Is the Bible accessible?

I was asked a question today. How do I deal with the idea of the bible being accessible to anyone when I think that it is complex and hard to understand at many points? I wanted to put more thought, and more words into my answer, so that’s what I am doing.

Many thoughts spring to my mind when asked how to deal with these two contrasting ideas. I will try to present them in an order that makes sense.

Firstly there are some ways in which the bible is simple and accessible, regardless of how complex it can get. It may seem a bit trite, but the Ten Commandments are not hard to understand. They are also rather important. As well, the Holy Spirit can and does move in people to create deeper understanding and to make them better people. God can communicate through the bible. This should not be used as an excuse though; the fact that God can and does do this in no way implies that He always does, that he must, or that He has to do in a “simple, accessible” way. Arguably, God works through our intellect and studies as much as outside of them, so if a man comes to a deeper understanding of the text through getting a PhD it does not mean that God didn’t reveal understanding to him.

Secondly, it seems to me that what is important is not how much knowledge we have, nor how deeply we understand doctrine or theology. What is important is love. Truth is very important throughout the bible, certainly. And getting to know God better should include the mind, the intellect. But being a good person still comes first before knowing anything. “What good does it do, then, to debate about the Trinity, if by a lack of humility you are displeasing to the Trinity? In truth, lofty words do not make a person holy and just, but a virtuous life makes one dear to God.” (Thomas a Kempis)

Thirdly, where does the bible ever say that is accessible or easy to understand? The closest it ever comes, that I can see, are two verse. The first is 1 Tim 4:13, where Paul exhorts Timothy to give attention to the public reading of scripture. The second is the ever so popular 2 Tim. 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Lets start with some more academic problems, before we get to the obvious ones. Many scholars do not think Paul wrote 1st and 2nd Timothy. Regardless of whether you accept this or not, there is a problem. What did Paul mean by scripture? If Paul wrote these letters he could only have been referring to the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament. It is extremely doubtful that Paul viewed his own writings as scripture, and the Gospels were not written yet, neither were any of the other letters in the New Testament. And if Paul didn’t write the letter, then the same problem exists, though altered slightly. The author of 2 Peter did view Paul’s letters as scripture, or at least placed them side by side. No Canon was defined until 325, so if Paul didn’t write this, then whoever did could have been referring to Paul’s letters and other letters in the New Testament, but not our New Testament. This of course leads to the next point, that the author of 2 Peter did not say that scripture was easy or accessible, he pointed out that it was difficult. “So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:15-16) Of course, there is the obvious problem that I referred to earlier but never explored. Those oft quoted verses from the Timothy’s do not say that scripture is accessible. It should be read publicly, and it is useful. One confusion that may come up is what it is useful for. It is very easy to hear the word teaching and then think of the teaching we have today. It is very unlikely that by teaching the author of 2 Timothy was referring to passing on of information. The biblical writers did not live in a period of information overload where the only classroom model was a lecture, and how Jesus taught the disciples shows just that. Reproof and correction almost assume that these things require understanding, which is never pointed to as easy to get. As for training in righteousness, that is the same point I made earlier. Its more important to be good than know doctrine.

The fact is, the bible points to itself as being difficult much more than it points to itself being easy. The same is true of Jesus talking about being a disciple. Yes, he said his burden was light, but he also asked that we carry our cross, die to ourselves, leave everything for him. He pointed out that the road was narrow and few would find it, that his teaching was hard, and “blessed are those who do not turn away on account of me” (Jesus). That at the end times, many would cry out to him, claiming to have done miracles in his name, but he would not know them. Read Mark. The disciples lived with Jesus for 3 years and had a very hard time understanding Him; they continuously messed it up. Ok, I know that this has strayed a bit from scripture. Jesus pointed out that some of his teachings were hard, and that his way was narrow, and these things became scripture, in some ways, but it does not address the whole issue. I know that. I still ask, where do we get off claiming the bible is easy and accessible?

So here is what I think of the idea of the bible being accessible. The fact is, no matter how much we talk about the bible this way, we all know its not, and our structures and actions assume that it is not. We have Pastors to explain it to us, they go to seminary and seminars to learn more, people spend there whole lives studying this book and the knowledge is passed down, hand over hand, until it reaches the common person in the pew. Yes, they are encouraged to read the bible on there own, but if their reading every contradicts the Pastor’s, guess who is right? Also, we have many “Gospel Presentations” specifically so that people don’t have to go through the difficulty of reading the Gospel’s themselves. (I know that is well motivated, and has as much to do with time as difficulty in the accounts, but both play a part, not just the time constraints). I do believe there are many parts of the bible that are straightforward. It seems to me that most of the parts that are very straightforward are sections that we wish were not so, and most of the parts that are complex and difficult are the sections that we trumpet our understanding about most loudly. Moreover, I believe there is value in the struggle to understand. In attempting to enter into dialogue with a text written by various authors, parts of which are over 2000 years old, written in various cultures which are a far cry from ours, we are pulled out of ourselves. This is an excellent first step, since many of us do not ever get outside ourselves, even when we read the Bible. The concept that the harder something is the greater the reward will be is not entirely true, but I think it applies in some way here. Struggling to grasp it is a worthy struggle. I am reminded of a line from “The Last Samurai”. “One could spend his whole life looking for the perfect blossom, and it would not be a wasted life.” Even knowing that we will never reach a perfect understanding, searching for it is not a waste. Lastly, the bible being easy and accessible came out of the protestant reformation, it was a reaction against some ideas held in the Catholic church. It is a good reaction as an ideal. To make the bible accessible to all, to help them understand, and let them help us understand, is an ideal well worth striving for. But it is not a fact to be defended, nor an assumption we should act on as if it were true.


Same Question, Phrased Different

So, another question, same lines, but different. Why would God ever make a text that was hard to understand or difficult? Wouldn’t it make sense to make something accessible and easy?

I think these questions rest on a lot of assumptions. If we consider the many different contexts in which the bible has existed, it is hard to see how this could have been accomplished. The Bible is at least partly culturally determined; this is another thing we acknowledge in our actions even if we don’t in our words. We let women have short hair, or speak in church, or go about without head coverings. Where do we get the idea that it is only those parts of the bible that we don’t accept that are culturally determined? It’s nice to try to use it as a criterion, but there is no consistency in doing that. If this is the case, then the only way God could have made the bible easy and accessible to all would have been to fill it with universal and complete truths that completely transcend culture, time, and even language (since even translating causes difficulty, as I am finding out in great detail in my Hebrew poetry class). In my mind such a book would be incomprehensible to us. I do not say that the bible is not full of truth, even truth’s of the kind mentioned above, but they are communicated through culture and language and such, not beyond it. It seems fairly obvious to me that the bible is not such a book as the kind mentioned above. The other option would be if God were to continually be directing every reader of the bible in correctly interpreting and reading it. While I have no doubt He is capable of this, He does not do it. History teaches us that.

On the other side of things, most of us can’t handle the straightforward parts of the bible; Not if we try to live them instead of just knowing them. A vibrant relationship with God, in my opinion, does not depend on being a biblical scholar. Nor does reading the bible the best we can. A good dose of humility and a great deal of prayer, towards our understanding of the bible especially, would do most of us a great deal of good, myself especially.

25.1.04

Please Do Disturb

I like being disturbed. That probably sounds a little odd. Let me start with movies. I like movies that are disturbing. Not in the sense of being disturbing because of to much gore, or to much violence, or to much hatred (though I don't automatically dislike those things, I usually don't enjoy them so much), but the more subtle kind of disturbing. Like Arlington Road, or Training Day, or American History X.

When something disturbs me it gets me thinking. It is usually disturbing because I am presented with something that does not jive with the way I think the world should be. It's like a key that just doesn't quite fit the lock, but you are positive that it should. The simplest form of this is just when the good guy loses. I expect, rationally and rightly in my mind, things to work out a certain way, and when it doesn't, it is disturbing. You know, they catch the bomber, cops are all good people, and racism isn't a big problem in our country today. Yeah, right. I can get my picture of the world reshaped by movies or by news. And maybe thats why I like being disturbed, because so much of life is disturbing. It seems a morbid idea so far, and unfortunately, in my case, it has been. I like learning and I like finding out I'm wrong. I have been a skier since I was 4, and my dad used to always say that if you don't fall your not learning. Maybe that's where I get it from, I don't know. Usually though, in the past, when I have found out I was wrong, it was usually that I thought to good of the world. It has led me to be somewhat of a cynic. Isn't it better to think worse and find out better, you know, be pleasantly surprised? Its a little off the point, but I have found the answer to that is no.

It was actually a movie that got me thinking about this, The Exorcist. I have to do a film review on it for my witchcraft/occult class. It is a disturbing movie. The child is healed in the end, sure, but two priest's are dead. Your not really sure if all is right with the world. It gets you thinking.

I said I like it because I find so much of life disturbing; and I didn't mean it completely in a bad way. I find it disturbing that there is a God who loves me. That I was born into a good family in a first world country. That I have never had to pray for my daily bread with any sense of actual need. I find Christianity to be most profoundly disturbing. I imagine the apostles, when Jesus was crucified, being severly disturbed. I imagine them on Sunday being even more so. I am sure that if I had been around for those two things, experienced in a sequence over a period of days, I would have found them to be much more disturbing than they ever have been to me in actuality, because I knew the whole story without any delay. What I find most disturbing, and I wonder what the disciples thought of this, is this: Jesus rose from the dead and his resurrection was proclaimed as a defeat of death and evil, and yet, on monday morning Evil still roamed the land. It still does today.

24.1.04

Saturday, The Best Day

I have a tradition on Saturdays. It is a relatively new tradition, but still a tradition. I don't get dressed. I sit around all day, doing whatever I have to do, in my housecoat and flannel pyjama's. Its great. Sometimes on a saturday, I actually have to leave the house, which means getting dressed; but most days I get away with it.

It all started with one day, last year. Actually, with the memory of that one day last year. It was 4:00 on a saturday afternoon, and I came upstairs, still in my housecoat and pj's (I think I had been up really late, and slept late, til maybe 1 or so, because back then, in the old days, I did get dressed on Saturday), and I saw Homiebear, who was at that time one of my roommates.
"How's it going?" Asked HomieBear
"I'm..." Replied The Logo
"Nevermind, I don't even have to ask. You have to be doing good if your still in your housecoat at 4." Cut in HomieBear

And he was right, you have to be doing good if you in your housecoat at 4 (well, maybe not if your in your housecoat because some clothes burgler stole every other article of clothing you own, but lets keep this happy). Even better if your still in your housecoat at 6, and later still when your getting ready for bed. Ahhhhh yes. So here's to saturdays and housecoats! Cheers everyone.

21.1.04

Yesterday... well, ok, technically two days ago, on monday, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. She asked me about Chapter, what I like about her, and what initially attracted me to her; questions of the sort that I love to answer, but almost never get asked. I had, and usually have, much to say about Chapter. Somehow it doesn't get out on here, or in lots of places, because I usually leave it until when I am asked. I am like with most of the things I think about, I don't just come out and talk about them. The few things that I do are usually only half serious, or else they are so serious that they weigh on me until I speak them. I am incredibly lucky to have found someone such as Chapter, someone who I can become the best partner I can for, and who is willing to become the best partner for me. I don't honestly beleive you ever stumble onto someone who just happens to fit so well; I mean it happens to some degree, and then you "fall in love" and that gets the whole thing started, but after all that, you have to be willing to learn and grow. And as I brought this stuff out, speaking with my friend I realized that I had looked for some indications of this stuff, and other things, in a person, and that I had found them in Chapter. But I had reason for looking for these things, and it was not my great experience with relationships... in fact, Chapter was my first real relationship (there was one instance previous, kind of wierd, not a relationship thats for sure).

I lived in residence for a year before I met Chapter, 1.5 years before we started dating, and the two biggest things in a residence (besides just having fun, whatever that means for each individual) were dating and school. I saw so much crap in my first year in residence in the area of relationships, that even though I had never been in one myself, I knew a few things which I definitely wanted to avoid. To this day I consider those lessons that I am lucky to have learned second hand. And it is the subject of learning lessons second hand which this lengthy introduction was leading up to. Thats how I got to thinking about this anyway.

I think that I, and I don't say this in any kind of arrogant way (or I hope I don't), have picked up very well on learning things second hand. Certainly not everything, and there are many mistakes which I stubbornly insist on making for myself, but enough. I remember talking to one of my prof's about politics in institutions and organizations, and how change works and such. It was actually at the end of an oral exam, he brought up some specific situations and asked me what I would do. After I answered he looked at me and asked me how in the world I knew that, and had learned that at my age. To be honest, I learned it from reading fiction and thinking about stuff that happens in stories. Nothing profound or complex; and the answers I gave still ring true today. However in the last year and half, I have actually had to personally deal with this stuff (man, I am being so vague about so much of this that I wonder if its possible for you to follow?). I have found it very frustrating, I have made mistakes and had mistaken expectations, and while they are rightfully attributed to lack of experience and maturity, they also highlight some of the limits of second hand learning.

Where does this leave me? It leaves me at 2 in the morning thinking about this instead of sleeping, and writing about it to. Many people have commented on my maturity for my age; but I am not mature. If anything, I am second hand mature. That is, I have learned much from others, which is good and a wise thing to do, but I still lack most of the experiences that lead to deep and true maturity.

I had other stuff I was thinking about. Ideas about how we know ourselves, about how we treat ourselves, and about friends and relationships. I think I started by thinking about those, and was planning on writing something along those lines. oh well, another day. In 20 years you can ask me if I have grown up, and then I may tell you that I am merely immature.

17.1.04

The Highwaymen - Here Comes That Rainbow

The scene was a small roadside cafe
The waitress was sweeping the floor
Two truck drivers drinking their coffee
And two Okie kids by the door

"How much are them candies?" they asked her
"How much have you got?" she replied
"We've only a penny between us"
"Them's two for a penny" she lied

Chorus:
And the daylight grew heavy with thunder
With the smell of the rains on the wind
Ain't it just like a human
Here comes that rainbow again

One truck driver called to the waitress
After the kids went outside
"Them candies ain't two for a penny"
"So what's it to you?" she replied

In silence they finished their coffee
And got up and nodded goodbye
She called,"Hey you left too much money"
"So what's it to you?" they replied

Chorus

Ain't it just like a human
Here comes that rainbow again


I love this song. It also reminds of this post by HomieBear. People are capable of so much good, of so much love, and of so much hate. We can be so beautiful, and we can be so ugly. I wish I could say that I don't understand how our world is filled with such opposites; I don't fully understand, but I am also filled with such opposites, so I can hardly claim any distance.

15.1.04

So often I run out of things I want to say; I just want to do. I want to write a book that somehow changes many people's lives, which is kind of in between, since its saying and doing. I want to help people to find Jesus, I want to become an expert martial artist and beat people up. I want to go back in time and get rich on the stock market, and I want to become a person who actively loves the poor and the outcast. I want to impress, and I want to be humble. My desires seem to be an insane mix of opposites; And my list of heroes is an incongruous mess of saints and comic book/movie characters...? I want to be St. Francis and Jet Li. I want to be Aragorn or Gandalf, and I want to be Abba Anthony (the first desert father). I want to save the world; to be Jesus and Superman.

Why? Kierkegaard claimed that purity of heart was "to will one thing". I realize that that is a lot harder than it sounds, at least it is for me. I am a fragmented mess, thanks to the multiple flashing and pushy inputs in my life. "The person who in truth wills only one thing can will only the Good, and the person who wills only one thing when he wills the good can will only the Good in truth. Let your heart, therefore, will in truth only one thing, for therein is the heart’s purity." He goes on to explain that the Good is the only thing that one can truly will, and at the same time only will one thing. If we will somethign else, that is not the Good, then we will find out, like I have, that we are a fragmented mess. Many things appear to be one thing, that if one desired one could will, but in the end Kierkegaard challenges us. Look at any man who is pursuing those things, and ask him if he wills only one thing, or ask him if he wills anything at all. It is true, the fragmentation so easily leads to apathy. It is so much easier to sit and think of the multitude of things which I wish for than to will any one of them and seek it. This, I agree, is at least partly because so many of the things I wish for cannot be willed as one thing. I wonder then, if one were to try and pursue those things, wholeheartedly and whole-willidly(?) would it inevitably lead to ruin because of the nature of those things to divide? Thats not really something I want to find out; but unfortunately it seems I am on that very road, or at least the road of apathy.

14.1.04

My first long day of classes is over. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Maybe it was just because it was the first time I went through it, but they didn't seem to drag at all. Tuesday's may not be so brutal after all.

My Religous Studies Methodologies course was particularly interesting. For those of you who don't know, a course like that is one in which we ask questions like "What is Religion? How do you study religion? etc." you know, big vague, hypothetical and definitional questions that end up running us around in circles for the full three hours. Nonetheless, it was good. Several students ended up lamenting the fact that any kind of talk of God (or "the ultimate being" etc.) seemed to be slowly leaving religious studies, which to them made it far less interesting. We also questioned discourse theory, the ability of scholars to seperate substance from concept, and the non-essentialist viewpoint which our current textbook takes on religion in general. Not bad for one three hour session. Yes that last sentence was supposed to be basically impenetrable, and though you may think thats just because you were not in the class, that is not the case. It was equally impenetrable for those of us in the class. Good times.

13.1.04

What have I been doing lately? Trying to get back into things, which is proving to be more difficult that I thought. It's like I fell off the planet for a few weeks, found out I really liked it, and am now clawing my way to get back on when I am not so sure I want to. Perhaps I feel that way because today is the first brutal tuesday I will be attending classes on... 7.5 straight hours of them. They are good classes, I know that. They are good prof's, I know that to. But thats a long time, and I am kind of waiting to see how it goes. Not that I can do anything about it if it goes badly, except get used to it.

9.1.04

I'm back. Wow it's been a long time. So my hopeful attitude of maybe posting over the holidays.. well, that didn't happen.

The holidays were great. I spent time at home, with friends and family, and then visited relatives I haven't seen for a long time, and finally spent some time with Chapter. While I was with Chapter I got the flu, and was very sick. But she took excellent care of me, so that wasn't so bad. Good to know she's good at stuff like that to :)

It's kind of wierd being back in edmonton, back in the basement and back in school. I am looking forward to this semester; good courses, good prof's, and its my last one here at UofA. Lots of work though. Then I get married!!! sweet.

I only know the workload for three of my five courses, but so far its lots of reading and writing. I have a sweet schedule. I am in Witchcraft and the Occult, Early Christian Scriptures, Ancient Near East, Special Topics in the Old Testament: Prophets, Poets and Sages, and Religous Studies Methodology.

Meetings are already starting for Campus Crusade to... its always so fast. I'm a little worried about my extra-curricular reading this semester to, I have a lot of reading to do for my courses. I'm sure I'll get some in though, its just a question of how much.

Anyway, thats the quick update with details, but not to many. From here on out I will be posting again, unlike the last month.