I have got to get one of these. I could put it on my desk and use it to intimidate unruly ThM students.
Is Buddha really any worse than Aristotle? Why shouldn’t a theologian from Korea or Taiwan seek to use Buddha or Confucius where the language is suitable and doesn’t contradict the gospel? In this case Moore’s criticism may be spot on. I don’t know. But I do know that we need to realize our own hybridity is as much a concern as someone else’s.
And, much if not most of the New Testament, develops its theology of Jesus within a framework of low Christology. Low versus high Christology is one of the points of genuine theological diversity in the New Testament, with the Synoptic Gospels in particular (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) telling stories of Jesus as a specially empowered man whom they do not simultaneously depict as God incarnate.
The monsters of the undead embody our fears of death. In agrarian eras we confronted death more directly. Nowadays we have to wait for the dead to come to our door once a year at Halloween. Or we can go to zombie movies. Either way, we feel a need to use monsters to confront our bodies, their gooshy vulnerabilities, and their ultimate demise. Monsters are existential.
The comic will tell the story of the 48 hours following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in which a horde of zombies attack Jerusalem in search of the messiah’s body.
Predestination, as normally taught by all the venerable reformed divines, both past and present, is unstable and unhelpful. In the past, I and everybody else that I have read got around this by employing the very useful term ‘mystery’ to cover the internal contradictions that rip the doctrine apart.
The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word “but” to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that, we should assume that. Religious people crucified grace personified. Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.
We don’t know how to grieve. That’s the thought that has been floating around in my head for a few days now. We know how to cry, we know how to be sad, and we know how to “get on with life.” But we don’t know how to grieve, how to mourn, how to process the pain of deep loss. And, oddly enough, as I was processing these thoughts, I found an interesting connection between an ancient religious tradition and a modern chick flick.
These thoughts started rattling around a few days ago when I read an iMonk piece on the importance of mourning and grieving in community. That piece included a quote from Lauren Winner’s book Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline explaining her concern that we lack the traditions and rituals necessary to grieve effectively:
What churches often do less well is grieve. We lack a ritual for the long and tiring process that is sorrow and loss. A friend of mine whose husband recently died put it like this: “For about two weeks the church was really the church—really awesomely, wonderfully the church. Everyone came to the house, baked casseroles, carried Kleenex. But then the two weeks ended, and so did the consolation calls.” While you the mourner are still bawling your eyes out and slamming fists into the wall, everyone else, understandably, forgets and goes back to their normal lives and you find, after all those crowds of people, that you are left alone. You are without the church, and without a church vocab-ulary for what happens to the living after the dead are dead.
The piece goes on to explain the advantages that a religious tradition like Judaism has in the way that it approaches grieving. Unlike most of our churches today, Judaism has explicit rituals and traditions for grieving, making it clear that grieving is a discipline that involves both the mourner and the community in a process that will take months, and even years, to complete. Thus, unlike our approach, which tends to emphasize the quick-fix and and an individualistic, therapeutic model of grieving, the Jewish tradition emphasizes that grieving is a long-term, communal, and deeply religious affair.
While I was still processing these ideas, my wife and I watched P.S. I Love You. I have to admit that I went into the movie expecting a fairly standard chick flick. And, you can definitely watch the movie from this perspective. It’s a story of a girl who meets the boy of her dreams, loses him, and learns, haltingly, to love again. Very touching.
My wife hated it.
That by itself is odd. My wife loves chick flicks. She’s seen While You Were Sleeping and Notting Hill more times than I can count. What was different here? Passionate love. Touchingly humorous side stories. Quirky supporting characters. Strong female lead (Hilary Swank is terrific). She should have loved this movie.
But, it wasn’t primarily a movie about love; it was really a movie about loss. Even more, it was a movie about the fact that we don’t know how to grieve.
Early in the movie, the main character loses her husband—the love of her life, her soul mate—to a brain stumor. And, of course, she immediately begins to grieve. The problem is that she really doesn’t know how. She locks herself in her apartment, cries a lot, watches old movies, and imagines that her husband is still around. She’s alone, desperately trying to process her uncontainable grief. As I watched, I mourned her inability to mourn—her loneliness, isolation, and frustration.
And the people around her have no idea how to help. Her mom just advises her to “Get back on your feet.” Her friends really want to be there for her, but the best they can come up with is to encourage her get back to work, go out for a night of fun, and, after a suitable period of sadness, hook up with some random Irish guy. Everyone in the story lacks a sense of how to grieve.
Everyone, but one.
Fortunately, one person in the story understands that grieving is more than just feeling bad for a while and moving on. Rather than showing her ways of escaping her grief, this one person helps her enter into her grief more deeply, gently coaxing her through rituals designed to help her remember, celebrate, mourn, laugh, and cry, rejoicing in the memory of the relationship even as she experiences the pain of its loss.
As I watched the movie, I came to a better appreciation for the argument that we lack rituals, traditions for mourning. We don’t have any intentional, communal activities meant to lead us through the process of grieving. Instead, we are expected to privatize our grief, be sad for a while, and either “get on with life” or seek professional, therapeutic assistance. It’s as though we’ve determined that Paul’s declaration that death has “no sting” means that we should not grieve. But, the fact that Christ has conquered death does not mean that loss has no pain. It only means that it is a pain that we can understand in the context of a greater hope. But it is still pain—deep, abiding, and often bitter, pain. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept.
I don’t know how to grieve. I don’t offer any answers for what this might look like. But, I’m coming to recognize the inadequacy of the typical evangelical approach to mourning. Mourning does not come naturally; it should not come naturally. To grieve properly, we need help. And, I’m open to suggestions for what a deeper, more intentional, more tradition-al approach to mourning might look like.
In preparation for this weekend, here is an important infographic on the hierarchical relationships that obtain in the candy universe. Although, I’d have to say that the infographic has clearly made a few devastating errors. There is no way that Caramellos, Milky Way, and Rollos qualify as top tier (third tier at best), Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are top tier all the way. Nonetheless, it’s a noble attempt at making sense of an important and complex reality.
Some interesting links from over the weekend:
Psychologically, I think Halloween performs two important functions. First, Halloween allows us to collectively process our eventual death and mortality….Second, Halloween allows us to work through our fears of the uncanny, the things that go bump in the night.
In this season of haunted houses and horror movies, we couldn’t imagine a better time to grapple with the subject of demons. In the Christian traditions, demons take center stage in numerous biblical stories and continue to chill us today as central characters in popular and religious culture. But do they really exist outside of our imaginations and nightmares? Are demons real, today?
Evangelicalism has teetered between a compete disregard for the body…, and a gnostic-inspired view that sees the material world, including our bodies, as something we would be better off without.
As Carnell wrote: “Fundamentalism is a lonely position. It has cut itself off from the general stream of culture, philosophy and ecclesiastical tradition. This accounts, in part, for its robust pride. Since it is no longer in union with the wisdom of the ages, it has no standard by which to judge its own religious pretense.”
Humanness is not an opponent in the story of attaining to God’s purposes for us, humanness is the goal of the story, and Jesus is the helper sent to take us there.
Listverse has a very interesting list of the Top 10 Myths about the Middle Ages. You’ll have to read the whole post to see their defense of each point, but here are the 10 myths that they set out to debunk.
Once again, R. R. Reno has published a very nice article on where to study theology in America. And, I thought this year’s article was his best yet because of the good advice he offered at the beginning on how to choose a program.
He begins by noting how difficult it is to rank theology programs. But, he concludes that “certain qualities always matter: intellectual climate, commitment to students, corporate personality, and the atmosphere of faith at the institution.” I particularly liked his emphasis on “corporate personality.” Many people focus on the academic reputation or intellectual climate of a school, without considering the overall personality of the program that will by their academic home for several years. Understanding the personality of the program and whether it is a good “fit” for you is a critical part of the decision-making process.
He also offers a good warning about big-name professors who may have little-or-no actual contact with students, or even other faculty:
The same holds for professors in endowed chairs, who function as lofty aristocrats, removed from the faculty members who actually advise students and oversee dissertation research. Professors who won’t answer emails or meet with students are worse than useless. They encourage a selfish atmosphere that injures their less famous but more committed colleagues.”
So, he encourages you to consider the entire faculty and not just a single, big-name professor. (By the way, I think this is both more and less of an issue in the UK. Because you’ll be working very closely with just one person, the overall quality of the faculty is not quite as important. But, this also means that the quality and availability of your supervisor is even more important.)
One of his more interesting points was that a good theology programs “needs to stand for something.” I think his point here is that a quality program will not just have a hodgepodge of different professors, but will comprise a group of relatively like-minded individuals working from a common vision. Although you want enough difference to make it a lively place for discussion, a common stance facilitates the kind of creative cooperation that makes for a vibrant learning community.
Education in its fullest sense “will never issue,” as John Henry Newman wrote, “from the most strenuous efforts of a set of teachers with no mutual sympathies and no intercommunion.”
And, of course, he concludes with his ranking of theology programs.
1. (tie) Duke and Notre Dame
4. Wycliff College (Toronto School of Theology)
7. Boston College
10. Up-and-coming programs (Wheaton College, Ave Maria University, University of Dayton)
I noticed last week that October 19 was the anniversary of the publication of the Olney Hymns, a classic collection of evangelical and Reformed compiled by William Cowper and John Newton. So, I thought we’d use one of those hymns for this week’s prayer.
VI. WISDOM.—Proverbs viii.22-31.
Ere God had built the mountains,
Or raised the fruitful hills;
Before he fill’d the fountains
That feed the running rills;
In me, from everlasting,
The wonderful I AM,
Found pleasures never-wasting,
And Wisdom is my name.
When, like a tent to dwell in,
He spread the skies abroad,
And swathed about the swelling
Of Ocean’s mighty flood;
He wrought by weight and measure,
And I was with him then
Myself the Father’s pleasure,
And mine, the sons of men,
Thus Wisdom’s words discover
Thy glory and thy grace,
Thou everlasting lover
Of our unworthy race!
Thy gracious eye survey’d us
Ere stars were seen above;
In wisdom thou hast made us,
And died for us in love.
And couldst thou be delighted
With creatures such as we,
Who, when we saw thee, slighted
And nail’d thee to a tree?
And mystery divine!
The voice that speaks in thunder,
Says, “Sinner, I am thine!