I’m normally not one for 365-day devotional books. Let’s just put that out there right away. I am, however, a fan of this one. Robert J. Morgan, pastor of the Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, TN, knows his history, and because of that this volume is deeply insightful. Though Morgan tends to favor modern history, nevertheless this work runs the gamut of Christian history, drawing from the Early and Medieval periods more than any other calendar-year devotional work I’ve seen. He does not even focus solely on major figures, but truly draws the reader into the breadth of Christian history. Furthermore, Morgan does not succumb to over-spiritualizing and attempting to draw out “life application” from each vignette, but rather allows the historical episodes speak for themselves in most cases. He does include a brief passage of Scripture at the bottom of each page, continually reminding the reader of the source and reason behind this history.
Though this book is not designed to be read in large chunks, I found myself being drawn into several days at a time whenever I picked it up. It is now a mainstay in my bathroom reading selection, an ironically high honor. I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking for something fresher than most dribble put out in these yearly devotional readers…and that’s not just because I’m a student of the history of the Church.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Adapted from the Kübler-Ross model.
- Denial. “I don’t need to start now. It’s not due for a few weeks!”
- Anger. “Why do I need to write THIS STUPID PAPER‽‽‽‽‽” (yes, I just used five interrobangs)
- Bargaining. “Ok, I’ll just watch this one show, then I’ll get to work. Then I’ll take another break later…. Oooh, I didn’t know we had Fudge Rounds in the house. Maybe I’ll reward myself with one per page…”
- Depression. “I’ve seriously written three pages only on one tiny aspect of this paper? I really haven’t cited any of my sources yet? I haven’t even put a dent in this thing! IS THIS GOING TO BE FOREVER? <insert bawling here>”
- Acceptance. “Ok. I don’t have much time left. Just need to grin-and-bear it. … What does that phrase actually mean, anyway? Oh, hello there Wikipedia…”
As you can see, it is a cycle of futility. I mean, do you know how much time I just wasted on this post when I should be working on a paper?
If you are alive and reading this right now, chances are you make decisions about to whom you will listen and like based on personality. For some, you will consciously ignore their personality because of the benefits he/she purveys to you; others, you will not tolerate, no matter what their message, stance, deal, whathaveyou. I’m not talking about the realm of legality; e.g., you will do as President Obama says because he, in the end, puts the rubber stamp to the laws, whether you like his personality or not.
But what about the church leaders with whom you agree, despite disliking their personalities? Or the professors whose books you enjoy reading, despite the fact that you wouldn’t be caught dead having coffee with them?
The interesting thing about history is that these lines are blurred very, very quickly. We know that MLK Jr. was a great guy, and combined with his message, hardly anyone would admit to not liking him. Probably the same is true for someone like Billy Graham or Abraham Lincoln. But what about people like Glenn Beck? I know plenty of people who ascribe to his political ideology without even realizing it, though they publicly decry his attitude and personality. They’d never in a million years say he was a good guy.
Reading about the life of Athanasius got me started on this. There is no doubt that his writings and his stances on the being, essence, and divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit are monumental, utterly influential, and will continue standing the test of time as they already have for well over 1600 years. Recent (within the last 50 years or so) historiographical research, however, seems to be of the opinion that he might not have exactly been a model Christian. (Being embroiled in politics does that.) But does that seem to affect people’s reception of him? Not so much.
All that to say…time blurs lines between the things that last and the things that don’t, even if you think some of the things that don’t last might be more important. How will the public, or the Church, remember certain leaders 50-1000 years from now differently than we see them in this moment?
I tend not to post regularly when my life is irregular. ‘Tis a fact of nature. I could’ve been more disciplined this summer, but I wasn’t. Live and learn.
The summer progresses, and nothing is in stone yet. We are still short of the money needed for me to start this semester. The University of Toronto handles all the billing, and they charge the entire year’s tuition up front, unlike any US college I’ve ever heard of. This is not conducive to a happy life. We are still praying, and we are extremely grateful for what we have so far. Everything is just one big question mark.
Despite this, I went ahead and registered for courses, which blew my mind. I’ve registered for courses before, obviously, but this time it really hit home. “I’m almost done with my accursed academic journey.” So, if things align, I will be starting my doctoral journey with Readings in Augustine, Divine Oracles: Exegesis in the Early Church, and Athanasius. The fact that I’m finally in a place where I can register for such ridiculously awesome courses also blew my mind.
So, if you like details, here they are:
- We are around $3000 short.
- Cherith has not yet found a job in Toronto.
- I’m going to start the semester by commuting, assuming I can start.
- I have gainful employment at one of the theological libraries in Toronto for less than 10 hours per week for the first term.
God is still faithful to us, even when we can’t see it. He’s at least more faithful than we are.
Does it take more faith to move to a city where my wife only has a part-time job, looking for something else part-time or even full-time, before hearing about other prospects, or to wait out and turn down an opportunity to get in the door in order to do more waiting for something more “perfect”?
My wife and I tend to differ a little bit on this. The answer to that question - which one takes more faith - doesn’t help us make the decisions. I’m not sure that, even as a Christian, we should be always holding out to make the decisions that take “more” faith. The classical paradigm of being someone of “great” faith, or putting “lots of” faith into a decision, I think, might be a little off. Is faith quantifiable? I’m not so sure about that either. I think anything we do with a degree of immediate uncertainty requires faith, and then when we put this decision before the Lord and ask him to help us use the discernment and wisdom with which he’s gifted us we enact that faith.
Maybe that’s where faith is quantifiable: how weighted must a decision become before we enact our faith? And why can’t we learn to enact our faith regardless of the weight of the decision?
Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and further us with your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy Name, and finally, by your mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
~ Prayer for Guidance, BCP
Last night I dreamed in animation. Like, full-on animation. Not me watching a cartoon, nor even dreaming about cartoon characters I’ve seen before. These were brand new characters and some sureal and ridiculous story line. Has this ever happened to anyone else?
Picture unrelated. Or rather, it’s semi-related. The Astros have been stinking it up, so I’ve been somewhat ashamed lately. Releasing Kaz Matsui was a good move, though. I digress.
If an update is a reprisal one one’s activities prior to posting, would an account of events yet-to-come be a downdate? I don’t know.
The next two weeks are going to be somewhat busy. This Sunday, Cherith and I are running our first 5K. This is one of the reasons I like the metric system; it makes everything sound a bit more impressive. When you tell someone “Hey, I’m going out to run 3.1 miles”, the usual reaction is: “So?” The annual Lilac Festival has been happening this week in Rochester, and Sunday marks the conclusion - with a 5K and a 10K. Since beginning the Couch-to-5K program, Cherith and I have made very visible progress, and are now hoping to display that progress publicly. Hopefully we don’t look like idiots.
For the majority of next week, I will be in Chicago to attend the North American Patristics Society annual meeting (as well as attend a Cubs game so I can mark Wrigley off the list of baseball parks I need to visit, and otherwise to hang out with a few great college/seminary friends I’ve not seen in a while). I’m not sure what possessed me to do so, but during the “call for papers” period a couple months ago I proposed a paper…and they apparently liked it, since I was asked to be a presenter. This paper is based on a paper I originally wrote for an Augustine class in seminary, though it’s a bit broader in scope (hopefully). Procrastination is catching up with me, though, and I have a bit of work to do with it before I’ll feel comfortable presenting it.
Finally, the Saturday after that I’ll be speaking at a conference focusing on discipleship for the Central New York district of the Wesleyan Church. If you know me, you should find this curious, since I am no longer Wesleyan. It seems my stock has risen now that I’m somewhat of an oddity in these parts, being Anglican and all. This should also sound odd because, as you might imagine, I’ll be speaking to a bunch of pastors for the most part, and I am what you might call a “failed” pastor. Nevertheless, I was still grateful for the invitation, and I hope I will not squander the opportunity. I will be talking about using the “spiritual disciplines” (especially as outlined by Richard Foster) to foster organic (I’m sorry, I hate this word, especially since it makes me sound like a hipster-doofus sort of Christian, but it’s used in the sense of being the opposite of traditionally-conceived “programming”) discipleship in congregations. So we’ll see how that goes. I feel completely unqualified for the task. Maybe that’s a good thing.
And, in the not-so-distant future, Cherith and I will be making decisions about how to proceed with my PhD “stuff”. We would both be pleased to move to Toronto, but this would require some sort of employment for Cherith, most likely before we could hope to move. Otherwise we will be trying to figure out the most efficient way for me to commute.
And now, I leave you with a picture best summarizing how I feel about the loss of Detroit in the NHL playoffs (acted out by none other than Capt. Jean-Luc Picard):
I was a bit skeptical at first when I sought out this book from Thomas Nelson. The Christian Encounters series features, presumably, notable “Christians” throughout history; I wrap quotes around that because several I’m not sure I’d consider die-hard Christians. Not that their biographies wouldn’t be interesting - it’s just that series like these have a way of distorting facts and emphasizing myth. To my pleasure, Jonathan Rogers has avoided that.
In this really fantastic little book, Rogers looks both at primary and secondary sources to paint a portrait of the life of Patrick, a Roman torn from his life in Britain to be a slave in Ireland, later returning as one of her most prominent missionaries and bishops. I was delighted to see that both extant works generally accepted to have been written by Patrick are included as appendices. Though they are both public domain, it is helpful to have them right on hand. Using these writings as his framework, Rogers works from fact and refers to legend to attempt to fill out a workable biography of the Christian saint. Though others have attempted to do this before, Rogers finds a balance that makes this account both informative and a pleasure to read. Whether you’re a history buff, an armchair theologian, or any other variety of Christian, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a book this size that packs such a huge punch.
At Evening Prayer tonight I was able to share with my students the Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom, since we hadn’t met for a couple weeks. None of them had experienced a proper Easter Vigil before, so it was fresh to them. It’s hard to proclaim it without tearing up; every time I read it, it overpowers me. So, even if you’ve read it before, read it again, remembering that Easter is a season, and that Christ’s triumph over the grave was because of his love for you and me.
Are there any who are devout lovers of God?
Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!
Are there any who are grateful servants?
Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!
If any have toiled from the first hour,
let them receive their due reward;
If any have come after the third hour,
let him with gratitude join in the Feast!
And he that arrived after the sixth hour,
let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour,
let him not hesitate; but let him come too.
And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,
let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first.
He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,
as well as to him that toiled from the first.
To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows.
He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor.
The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!
First and last alike receive your reward;
rich and poor, rejoice together!
Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,
for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;
for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said,
“You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
Sister Joan Chittister, a rather accomplished Benedictine, lives and breaths the cycle of the Church year after year. In this book, which acts half as an apology for the liturgical cycle and half as a devotional call to order, she explores the depth and nature of the Christian liturgical year. Chittister both plumbs the depths of the historical development of many aspects of the liturgical year and examines their significance for day-to-day living. Furthermore, she seeks to examine not just the rationale behind the seasons of the Church, but also the even more fundamental theological roots behind Christian living, such as our understanding of time, Sabbath, joy, suffering, celebration and fidelity.
Whilst I very much did learn from this book, there are certain aspects that proved to be distracting. For instance, though I’m not sure I could suggest a better organizational strategy, the intermingling of almost devotional-level explorations of theological issues with more technical historical examinations of the liturgical year somewhat disrupt the flow of the text. That is probably the worst I can say about this work.
Overally, I think Chittister accomplishes exactly what she set out to do: help the average Christian understand not only how a Christian may live within the liturgical year, but also why a Christian should want to live in such an environment. If you’re looking for more depth, however, I’d recommend Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Time.
Readings: Genesis 37:12-24, Psalm 47, 1 Corinthians 1:20-31, Mark 1:14-28
1 Corinthians is not the book I want to read during Lent. Not because of how it’s written, or who wrote it, but because, in a very real sense, it is written to me. Now, obviously I know that it wasn’t written to me as its original recipient. But none of us would read and pray and worship through Scripture if somehow we also weren’t a part of it.
I don’t like 1 Corinthians during Lent because it’s salt in the wound. In many ways, I am a Corinthian. You are a Corinthian, too. I especially realize this during Lent. At different times throughout the year, St. Paul asks, “Where is the one who is wise?” “Here I am, Lord!” “Where is the scribe?” “Right here, Lord. I’m your man!” “Where is the debater?” “I’m the best, Lord. Right here, buddy.” And at Lent, I hear this retort: “Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” And I am ashamed at my answers.
God decided to span the gap we had enlarged by our foolishness by himself coming and acting according to what the world would call foolishness. We boast, we take pride, we talk around our sins; yet we proclaim a Christ who was killed. What a mystery!
And so, in Lent, let us bow low with the Savior who chose what was low and despised over what was wise, what was powerful, what was influential. But not for the purpose of pious self-depracation; no, for the purpose of the exaltation of the Lord. As the Psalmist reminds us, it doesn’t really matter what our circumstance is, the Lord is King, he chose us, and he is highly exalted, worthy to be praised - no matter what the season. This is a God who has taken the low road, and, as Paul says, becomes for us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, so that we might boast in God.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I’ve made a fuss about discovering the lost (but becoming found) art of wetshaving recently. Some of you have written it off, some of you have been mildly curious, and some of you have taken up the mantle. For those of the middle group, this is the blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while to help you out…mostly because random tweets here or there aren’t sufficient, and why e-mail the same thing to half a dozen people when they (and more) can read it all here? So here goes.
Here’s the place to start: If you shave frequently (i.e., you don’t allow your neck and face to be completely covered by hair, and you maintain that forbiddance more than once a week), are you happy? I mean, completely happy? If your answer is yes, then you can stop reading. You have my blessing to continue whatever it is you do, whether that be an electric, a single-blade disposable, a rusty machete, or a 13-bladed hellspawn of a razor.
What if you don’t know if you’re dissatisfied? Let me help you.
- Do you get frequent razor burn?
- Are your shaves less-than-close?
- Are you concerned about the goop you’re probably putting on your face?
- If you use a cartridge razor, are you sick of shelling out primo dinero for razor blades?
- Do you get acne in your beard area [in]frequently?
- Do you just plain hate to shave?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, are you interested in becoming a man again, grasping heavy metal and a razor blade that can spill your lifeblood with one wrong move? Do you enjoy thrill, danger, great smelling soaps and creams, and badgers?
Ok, maybe that wasn’t the right introduction….
I hated to shave. In fact, the periods in my life when I’ve had a beard reflect that hatred. Shaving takes time, takes money…it was just plain irritating. Wetshaving, on the hand, has turned shaving into an enjoyable experience, and indeed a hobby. I like the fact that the good of my shave, for the most part, depends on my skill with a razor and a blade - not with holding a gaping maw of blades against my face and praying that King Gillette doesn’t want my soul. I like the fact that I make my own lather; I can use a brush made out of badger hair and a fine, triple-milled soap, or a cream fit for an old-school barbershop, and whip up lather better than any canned goop made out of cancerous, space-age plastics. I like the fact that though it takes time to perfect my method, my skin, overall, fares better because hair is being cut, not the top layers of skin. Like most guys…I like the different gear I get to acquire and use. Finally, I like the cost. I can get 100 razor blades for $10. Try getting 100 Mach 3 blades for $10, I dare you.
The downsides, of course, are directly related to the upsides.
- It takes a lot of time to get good at this. Most of my shaves average 30 minutes. Fortunately, I’m mostly unemployed, so I have some time…but even on days when I don’t, I actually don’t mind taking the time to shave in the evening, or wake up half an hour earlier to shave. It’s relaxing and therapeutic in many ways, even if some shaves are less than stellar.
- The front-end costs are higher. But if you play your cards right, you can shave well for fairly cheaply. You can snag a $20ish razor off Amazon or many other retailers; you can snag a $20ish brush off Amazon; you can snag a $10-30 sample pack of blades from West Coast Shaving. You can get a really good shave cream from Bath & Body Works; or you can get a $3-5 puck of soap off Amazon. There are great aftershaves at any drug store or Wal-Mart.
- Of course, for many of us, the sheer variety of products is intoxicating…there’s a $75 brush I want…there’s a $35 bowl of soap I want…etc. Acquisition Disorder can bite you hard. I try to keep my out-of-pocket spending very low; if you think about the amount you would normally spend on shaving gear, you can easily spend less than that over time. Most of my shaving gear comes from Amazon, thanks to Swagbucks - just by searching Google I get between $10-$25 every month. Seriously.
- If you really, REALLY want to go hardcore, and have the cash to play with, you could go for a straight razor. Things can get pretty expensive if you want to get a high-end razor, a strop, etc., but they don’t have to be.
If you’re genuinely interested, drop me a line. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I have been dwelling on the intersection between sex and comedy for the last week or so, since watching Funny People. I’ve gotten a number of reactions from people in response to my main query: “Why do comedians always seem to focus on sex?”
Here’s the lay of the land. First, we must admit that most Christians have a hard time talking about sex, much less seeing it as something to joke about. Fortunately it seems like more people married about the same time as I are starting to realize that there needs to be space for a light-hearted component to sex. I’m not saying you always need to laugh or make jokes about it, but I am saying that, honestly, sometimes funny stuff happens, and it’s ok to laugh about it.
Now, this isn’t what I was getting at when I asked about comedians joking about sex all the time. If you watch an average stand-up comic, he/she will undoubtedly make jokes about 1) his/her own sexuality, 2) an experience whilst having sex, or 3) his/her desire for sex. Usually this involves random sexual encounters, meaningless partners, and the like. Some of these jokes are quite humorous when you dissect them looking for wires and buzzers and such that build a precise humor machine (things such as irony, incongruity, absurdity, etc.). That is, there are certain things that define humor, and so these jokes meet these specifications; it really has nothing to do with what the joke is about, just how the joke is formulated.
I would contend that some other of these jokes aren’t “technically” humorous, but because they somehow strike a nerve of common experience with many people, they become humorous. Usually these jokes connect in some ways to technical definitions of humor, but when derailed their technical deficiencies are made up for in their “human interest” effect. I think this effect is why so many comedians actually focus their repertoire on sex. Most people are uncomfortable with having a serious conversation about sex because of their disconnectedness with others. This isn’t just a symptom of “postmodernity” or some other philosophical/ontological fad; it’s a problem that’s been around for centuries.
Perhaps you are starting to see the cycle of irony that’s befuddling me. People are disconnected, so they tell a joke that connects them to disconnected people, but in a way that perpetuates their disconnectedness. This is the problem I have with the average sexual humor wielded by most comics.
When I was in high school, I attended a large denominational event that had various sessions throughout the day before the main hoopla of the evening. I very distinctly remember attended a session in which the speaker purported that it was wrong to watch the television show Friends because of their gravitation toward sexual humor. By laughing at these jokes and situations, the speaker delineated, I was consenting to a lifestyle that supported loose relationships, sexual ambition, etc. Here’s the problem. I personally find Friends very funny. There are heaps of other shows somewhat like it that I find equally funny: Seinfeld, 30 Rock, and The Office, just to name a few. All of these shows (some more than others) at one point or another make light of sex.
So here’s where I’m currently stuck. I don’t want to know if you think it’s ok if I laugh at a sex joke or not. That’s, ultimately, your personal opinion. What really interests me is the “why”. What is it about the overall topic of sex that draws so much attention from comics? And, more importantly to me, has humor changed much over the last 2000 years?
Last night I dreamt I was in a car with my brother and two of his college friends on our way to some sort of event. The event was held in an arena in a town I had never been in, but somehow we knew where the best parking was. After squabbling about trying to get closer parking, we eventually settled on a spot and began to walk. As we neared the arena, I woke up.
I left out two details. First, the entire time we were trying to find a parking spot, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” was playing on the radio, on repeat. Second, as we were walking toward the arena, a little Peruvian kid was following us playing the ocarina. Interestingly, he was playing a tune from the Nintendo 64 game “The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.”
What is most interesting is that “Never Gonna Give You Up” is my current ringtone, and the certain tune from Zelda is my messaging/voicemail notification sound.
Turns out I missed a call to substitute teach today.
I hated substitute teachers when I was in school. They do things differently, or, at times, not at all. I never got the sense that they genuinely wanted to be in the classroom; it was maybe a case of being retired and not knowing how to truly retire (once a teacher, always a teacher), or being unemployed and just needing SOMETHING (*cough*). Let’s face it, it’s better than sitting in a chair for a couple hours giving plasma. You Asburians know what I’m talking about. I do (most of the time) enjoy the experience, however.
I’ve been subbing at two schools - one public, one private. There is a ridiculous amount of difference. If you strip away everything exterior to the student, they are all essentially the same, factoring in age differences. 7th-graders are 7th-graders no matter what school they’re at. But I very clearly get a sense of difference in both upbringing and student-teacher relationships between the two types of schools. Very clearly. This is not to lump all private schoolers and all public schoolers into two broad, judgmental categories…well, maybe it is. The majority of public kids seem downtrodden, unresponsive, and just plain detached from learning. The majority of private kids seem more interested, more “with it”, and better behaved. I have no clue how much of this is because of parents or teachers. One would think that a private school kid is at the private school kid because of the parents’ level of involvement with the kid’s life and education, but I really have no way to know.
However, I can’t help but remember my own personal public school upbringing. Granted, I think it was mostly because my parents couldn’t afford private school. My parents ALWAYS emphasized that I should put education first. I had some amazing teachers whom I felt genuinely connected to. This led me to the conclusion that public school is really pretty awesome, because look how I turned out! But now that I’m subbing in both, there’s a world of difference. And I’m not saying that in order to imply that I will most definitely be sending my own kids to private school one day. I think this whole scenario just takes me to a place in my mind where I’m not sure anymore, now that I have a slightly higher vantage point. Maybe this is the kind of experience that would make me want to be one of those phenomenal teachers I had in public school, who knows.
Though I’m active on Twitter and, subsequently, Facebook, I don’t think I’ve ever wholly explained what’s happening in our lives lately (though Cherith tends to deliver on that end fairly well). So part of me thinks it’s just plain redundant to send an update, but then I realize that there are a lot of people who don’t know my wife or read her blog. So I guess this is for YOU…uh, whoever you are.
So, Kentucky’s done. I finished my MA in Biblical Studies in July (technically August), and we were attempting to figure out the next step. God made it pretty clear that Kentucky wasn’t involved in that plan, and opened the door for us to return to upstate NY. Cherith was offered a job working in financial aid here at Houghton College, our alma mater, and will begin her Master’s degree in music next year. It’s really a great opportunity for her, and I’m especially happy that she gets to continue to pursue her dreams.
This year will be a slight pause for me. Since the job market is mostly crap in this area, I’ve been lucky enough to get my name in for subbing at both the Houghton Academy and at Belfast Central School. I was also approved to teach adjunct online for Regent University in Virginia; the main factor being that they will now have to find something for me to teach. But being “in” and doing nothing is certainly better than being “out” and doing nothing.
I’m also exploring possible PhD options for next year. I’m technically still admitted to Durham, so if somehow we find a way to pay for it, I could start that next year. We also took a day to head up to Toronto to visit Wycliffe College, one of the member colleges of the Toronto School of Theology (and to visit our friends Brie and Jesse). The TST is formed of half a dozen theological colleges that offer their own degrees at the basic level, and at the advanced level tend to focus on just a couple of them (something to do with accreditation). So even if I study and am advised by and take most courses through Wycliffe, at the PhD level technically my degree will be conferred by the University of St. Michael’s College. Most of them are related in some fashion to the University of Toronto, so I can also take classes there; however, I will probably apply separately to the U of T anyway since funding is much better, though more competitive. At any rate, fantastic professors, amazing library resources, and the city of Toronto would afford a ridiculously great opportunity. I’m not sure how commuting/living arrangements would work, but we’ll cross that bridge if/when we get there.
I think that’s pretty much it for now.
5 Cities that Ruled the World is an interesting snapshot into the last few millenia of history told from Douglas Wilson’s point of view. Wilson briefly focuses on what he considers to be the five major cities throughout human history: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and New York. This is a good selection, and through each chapter Wilson relates how it is that these cities have impacted the world even into the present day; Jerusalem through “a legacy of the spirit,” Athens through “reason and mind,” Rome through law, London through literature, and New York through “industry and commerce” (xx). As Wilson weaves through these cities’ narratives, he not only picks up major historical turning points as they relate to his categorizations, but he finds a way to deftly weave in points of interest, trivia, and simply entertaining facts. Though I am not entirely certain that each chapter and the information that accompanies them solidify the title of the book, the reader may at least affirm Wilson’s thrust; yes, these cities have been major players in their prime, and have affected our present.
What really threw me for a loop, however, was the epilogue, where Wilson seemingly attempts to bring in the Gospel to this work. I am not against attempting to parallel the Gospel narrative with the world’s geo-political narrative, but whatever he does just doesn’t work. If Wilson had attempted to integrate this material in each chapter, perhaps his purpose would have worked out a bit smoother. Of course, his main thrust was not to detail the rise to power of five cities throughout history in light of the Gospel, so perhaps in the end an epilogue is a fitting place for an author clearly writing from a confessional standpoint, despite the material not necessarily cleanly integrating with this background (though of course Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome work out quite well in this regard).
Overall, this book is well-written and worth the quick read, especially if you just want to feel “up” on your history.
That was meant to come across sounding more like Jerry Seinfeld than a normal aggrevated person, but meh.
No doubt many of you will have read about the Vatican offering a complete Papal Makeover of any willing Anglican congregation, probably one of the biggest moves between the Vatican and Protestants since…well, a really long time (a.k.a. when Ramsey went to Rome in 1966). I’ve been reading various reactions over the past week or so, and it’s funny to see the disparity between opinions. One group seems to hold that more conservative Anglican groups, especially those who are a part of the Traditional Anglican Communion (here first, then here), will jump ship almost immediately. This no doubt comes from knowledge of the 2007 proposal made by the Communion to enter into the Catholic fold whilst remaining, in daily rite and liturgy, Anglican. The Vatican is even allowing married Anglican priests to retain their spouse.
The other group thinks not many groups will make the transition, mostly because of key remaining doctrinal difficulties. That is to say, there are reasons the purists are still Anglican and not Catholic - the Pope (especially his infallibility), lack of powers of the laity, bishop powers, marriage after divorce, etc. Thus a group should not base their judgment for transitioning on disliking one issue in their current state, but should judge on what they’d be getting themselves into. This is wise advice.
The main question I ask in all of this is: Why? Surely the Vatican isn’t as opportunistic as it seems to be in this case. Can the Catholic Church afford to offer a “defect now and we’ll throw in a free toaster” sort of scheme like this? Is this really the way to keep ecumenism alive between Anglicans and Catholics, or is there something going on behind the scenes?
What are your thoughts? I’m curious and introductorily-informed.
The title is the most intriguing aspect of this book, and though it lends a bit of direction to the text insofar as the author himself had direction, I would say that it is a bit of a misnomer. ”The Search for God and Guinness” makes me think that the author is somehow going to show how theology and alcohol are related, even a specific form of alcohol like Guinness throughout the family’s history. Instead, we get a miniaturized biography of the Guinness family, from the first Arthur to Benjamin, last chair from the actual Guinness family in the 1980s, and how the tale of Guinness has been woven throughout the past few centuries. It is indeed intriguing to see how one branch of the Guinness family was focused on full-time ministry (from the pastorate to the mission field), and certainly how a humanitarian spirit has run throughout the family, especially in efforts to provide factory workers with education, cleaner living spaces, and provision during war-time when few other companies were doing such things - and during times in Dublin’s past which many had fled.
On the whole, though, this book seems to be an unnecessary “Guinness Biography for Dummies” that sets out to seemingly (in an undercurrent-sort-of-way) justify why Christians should support Guinness, whether by drinking it or just nodding in approval toward it. I liked Guinness enough before reading this, so it didn’t “convert” me or anything; in fact, it hasn’t really affected me personally at all. However, I’m not going to read half-a-dozen books highlighting the history of Guinness as a beer and a family, so this smallish book (273 small pages with average-sized print, including bibliography and an About the Author section) does fine to pique my curiosity about the subject. I don’t think Mansfield does anything amazing, and I don’t really get his agenda, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless.
Today I had lunch with my good buddy Dan, one of the handful of Houghton friends Cherith and I have had the fortune to be reunited with since our return. Dan has had a completely different experience within the Church than I have, so it’s always interesting to talk all things ecclesial with him.
As we ate, I began describing how I have viewed some of the challenges of Anglican church-planting. On the one hand, there needs to be a devoted core, it seems, while on the other hand, at some point the group has to be concerned with loving the community and its people, inviting people who don’t know God to join us in knowing him. To me, the most puzzling aspect is how to approach the liturgy.
To an “average” evangelical Christian, liturgy is either a bad word or, at best, a word void of meaning. Yet every church fellowship shares in a liturgy; it’s just the way people do the things they do when they worship together. So when you’ve been doing certain things for a long time, it’s at the same time annoying yet not too difficult to transition to doing something different. The context for doing some practice is the same, yet the content might vary. Thus, I think it is obvious to say that in the US, much of the becoming-Anglican-process involves “switching teams,” so to speak; some Christians might even assess it as a “worship upgrade” (yes, I’ve heard this). The person moves from doing things one way to leveling up and doing things a better, improved way that somehow puts them closer to God. Now I obviously don’t agree with that, but stick with me.
Enter the average non-Christian. The typical evangelical liturgy can almost be seen as a gateway to a more complex liturgy. After all, how does one jump straight from no Christian liturgy to an ancient, complex one? And yet, this is happening every day in Africa. Christian conversion is exponential over there compared to the US, and the Anglican Church in Africa is certainly a part of that. If I were a non-Christian, probably the last thing I’d want is to have to try to swim in a sea of words and phrases and body movements and prayers that have no direct relation to the world I was already involved in!
All that to say, I have no idea why a non-Christian would want to become an Anglican Christian, unless this person were already an egg-head that didn’t mind reading a book every week at church gatherings. Still, not only do I know the liturgy that has been developed in the Church is important, but I also love it dearly (obviously not with the same love that I love God, but you get my drift). I love being able to join in saying words that have time on their side, that have greater minds than mind on their side, that have so many more minds on their side, words that I didn’t have to make up five minutes before the service. As Dan so eloquently mused, if you only had a screwdriver and a wrench you could fix a car, but it’d take you forever. What’s wrong with using tools that were created over much time and energy to do specific, efficient, good jobs?
And so, of course, we departed the cafeteria with no answers. To find our answers, we’re just going to have to see what happens.