Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ongoing Collapse of Russia

A rather alarming set of numbers here. The implications for future world peace seem pretty grim.

I'll be back soon....I've been caught up in a lot of work in the final weeks of my master's studies, but today I turn in my last paper, so will have more time to reflect here.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

David Brooks on Abortion

Gotta run to work, but here is an interesting view of the abortion issue from one who is becoming my favorite editorial columnist, David Brooks. He proposes that Harry Blackmun did more to undermine the American system than anyone last century, inadvertently, through the Roe V. Wade decision. He calls for its overthrow, not so much to stop abortion as to get our entire republic back on its representational feet. A good viewpoint, I think.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Wright on Virgin Birth

Well, I believe I am discovering the answer about Wright's view on the Virgin Birth, which also deepens my suspicion about his views on the Incarnation and the Trinity, not to mention his views on the authority of scripture. Consider this article. I think he has a pretty big "suspense account". He will not come out and say that he doesn't believe it, but he certainly does not affirm it, and seems to find the whole question inconvenient and beside the point, which is his account of Jesus-as-vocational-Messiah, as radical-young-first-century-rabbi, neither of which require that He be actually, essentially, God. He seems to want to dismiss all these questions as the wrong questions, that we wouldn't even ask if we understood first century Judaism as well as he does. Am I wrong? Come on, guys...prove it ain't so....

N. T. Wright on Jesus?

One of my good buddies, who shall remain nameless, was somewhat exercised by my recent post on the spirit of the age, and specifically by my vague doubt regarding N. T. Wright's approach to Jesus. In deference to him, I decided to listen to a few more Wright lectures on my way back and forth to Annapolis. There are four lectures on Jesus that he gave in some symposium setting around the turn of the millenium (the exact setting is not documented at the site, but inferred from the content):

Jesus and the Kingdom
Jesus and the Cross
Jesus and God
Jesus and the World's True Light

After listening to these lectures, I must confess that I was not reassured, but remained deeply troubled by the manner in which Wright speaks of Jesus. He speaks always of Jesus "believing" certain things about himself and God and his mission, never of His "knowing". He speaks of Jesus' "vocation" as a set of beliefs about what God "would do" and what, therefore, He should do to fulfill God's purposes. He speaks of Jesus' "incarnation" in terms not of Jesus being in essense (yes, I know it is a Greek idea...) God, but rather in that he made actual, in his own body in its actions and in its death, the purposes of God for Israel. It sounds very much like Wright sees the incarnation as something that happened to the man Jesus, and means that Jesus "became" the perfect image of God through his obedience and his insight into what God's purposes were. One has the feeling that Jesus could have accomplished his "vocation" and his "incarnation" by being simply a man who followed his beliefs about God's purposes and God's kingdom to the bitter end, and was then resurrected in an act of God's affirmation that he "got it right". Most alarming to me was Wright's comment at the end that he "still says the Creeds" but now "means something different than before" his studies.

Now I realize that these are simply four lectures, and that Wright has written numerous books, but these make six or seven lectures that I have listened to, and I feel no less concern about his orthodoxy than after the first. Can someone reassure me that Wright has committed, unambiguously, to the doctrines that:

1) Jesus was preexistent God, an eternal member of the Trinity distinguishable from the Father and Spirit before his birth as a human baby.
2) That He was truly born of a virgin, with no human biological father.
3) That he was completely without sin, meaning that he never sinned, not simply that he followed his understanding of God's purpose for his life whole-heartedly.
4) That he was incarnate God, not merely in his last years of ministry, but from his conception?

I would be glad to be so reassured, since Wright seems to be so important to my dear friend and several bloggers here, and I have intended to explore some of his writings when I finally complete my studies at St. John's. If he is so heterodox as to disagree with the elements of Christology above, however, then I have little interest in what else he may have to say about the Jesus he believes in, or how he may apply that Jesus' teachings to the church today. Somebody reassure me, please!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Brooks on the UN

Another useful commentary by David Brooks in the online NY Times. I found that this brief commentary on the "two missions" of the UN helped me clarify and organize the various vagues discomforts I have had over the years when I think of the UN. I hope he is correct, that we will never accept the governance mission.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Jesus as Philosopher

I remain convinced that it is important for Christians, at least some of us, to think philosophically, to provide an intellectually coherent account of life and reality and our relationships to each other and to God. I was therefore encouraged by this interview with Dr. Groothuis on "Jesus as Philosopher". (It is a downloadable MP3 file, can be placed on an iPod for treadmill or jogging time...) He points out that there is an antipathy on the parts of both our non-believing academy and our own churches to thinking of Jesus as a philosopher, but that he was a master thinker and used arguments all the time in his discourse, blowing away the competition, so to speak. He suggests that it is silly to think, "Jesus is Lord" without also realizing, "Jesus is Smart." He also argues against the idea that Reason is somehow non-biblical, or sub-biblical, and notes that Jesus never dismissed reason in his answers or his teachings, as he could have if reason were unimportant or did not apply to Him as the Creator. No, rather, his answers were closely reasoned and rationally unassailable. The problem with Rationalism is that it cannot discover all the necessary givens about the universe and God, and will not accept revelation as a necessary source and root providing these starting points. We are to use reason, as Jesus did, upon the substrate of revelation. Reason is necessary but not sufficient to a true understanding of God and his creation.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

On Mirrors and the Spirit of the Age

Today as I waited for the shower stream to heat up, I squinted at my 50-year old body in the mirror and heard myself mutter, "Well, if you're what I am then I'd better start exercising." As I did so, I was struck by the thought that this is exactly the attitude that has captured the minds and wallets of modern men and women across the West, who swell the membership of the Gold's Gyms and jog through our neighborhoods. This thought: this body is me--if it's beautiful and desirable, then I'm beautiful and desirable--if it's ugly then I'm ugly--underlies the eating disorders that stress our young women (and that killed Terry Schiavo, in one way of thinking). Our whole culture is body-centered. "Look Better Naked" is the billboard for Gold's Gyms in York, PA. The thought that, perhaps, I fundamentally am a body, rather than someone that has a body, had suggested to me the same body-centric self image that drives a huge portion of our consumer industry and that is clearly an aspect of the current "spirit of the age".

This was alarming, and I immediately felt several related thoughts snap into alignment in the back of my head. I heard John Lennon's "Imagine There's No Heaven" transposed upon a comment I have heard several times recently, that "the Bible is not about going to heaven, but about living on earth." Sooooo....this emerging concept also just happens to line up with what romantic materialists have been saying for the past 40 years. "It's not about saving souls, but about building the Kingdom (on Earth, by the way)" Hmmmm.

The Creation mandate directs us to become much more environmentally conscious and join the environmentalists who have, ironically, understood this truth all along. One of Jubillee's keynote speakers urges the youth to take up global warming as a Christian cause. The Gaian's are (practically, anyway) right after all.

We have recently discovered that the past 2000 years of Christian scholarship and exegesis has been terribly corrupted by ancient Greek rationalism and dualism, so we are busily exploring our ancient roots and trying to understand our scriptures from the point of view of our ancient, pre-industrial, agrarian forebears. Has anyone else noticed that this is precisely what pop religion has been doing for the past twenty years? "Rediscovering" primitive spirituality, whether it be Native American, Aboriginal or Wiccan, and rejecting philosophies based on reason and categorical thinking?

We are all about rediscovering "community" and the urban. Hello? These have been "Bobo" concerns for the past twenty-plus years.

So what am I suggesting? At this point, I am merely alarmed at the striking alignment of many of these Christian "hot topics" with the spirit of this age. An emphasis on the physicality of life, the goodness of this material world, a preference for the ancient and non-rational, urbanism and an emphasis on community, and a rejection of grand metanarratives are not only shared by the current culture, but the elites of that culture emphasized these things first. Is there any chance that we are simply assimilating, that we are seeking to rejoin the intellectual elites by aping their agenda, with a Christian twist to preserve the illusion that we are countercultural?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Welcome David to Blogger

Well, another son has joined the Blogger community, my eldest son David. His site is called "The Learned Fool" (I fear both the learning and the foolishness may be traceable to yours truly in some degree...) He is a student with me in the masters program at St. Johns', so we get to see each other twice a week, which is really nice. He says he intends to write mostly film reviews. Take his warning seriously; his taste in film is definitely "edgy"! I'm placing a link in my margin. Welcome, David!

For future reference

Prosthesis provides a link to a short discussion on soul (psuke) and spirit (pneuma) based on N. T. Wright's writing. I'm placing the link here because I intend to refer to this in a future post on the subject.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Peter Kreeft on Catholics and Fundamentalists

Found this interesting link (click title) on the Boar's Head Tavern blog. I've always liked Kreeft. It is interesting, after interacting with the neoCals in this blogcircle, how very many of their critiques of current protestantism would be met in modern Catholicism. Especially check out the sections on "Whose in Authority here?" and "How do we get to heaven?"

Kristof and Brooks again

Taxes, papers, nightshifts and oral exams on the horizon, so little time to theorize (except about Aeschylus and Locke.) But today's NY Times brings my guys to the online front-page again. Kristof notes how our tolerance of genocide and governmental starvation in countries run by blacks, when we would never tolerate it in a white colonial government, is a form of racism. Brooks muses on the preferability of broad understanding of cultures and history to objectivized and systematized analytical systems in intelligence work.