Back in April, I mentioned several forthcoming books I’m excited about, one of which is My Love Is All That Matters: A Wilderness Journey of Faith and Hope by Charles Featherstone.
Rod Dreher, from whom I first learned of Charles and his fascinating journey, has written a new post about Charles’ current situation, which has unfortunately become difficult in key part because of the book he has decided to work on with me. So I hope you’ll take a look at Rod’s post and consider offering whatever support you have to offer to Charles and his wife at this critical juncture in their lives.
Oh boy, the day has slipped by and I haven’t posted my obligatory blog post.
Let me share two recent encounters with two of my sons. I know these sorts of things are cutesy and all, but if you can get past the cutesiness and contemplate the gravity of the two questions, I’m open to comments and suggestions about how to handle these issues.
First, the other night my wife was reading to the boys from a book about who God is. God is bread. God is friend. God is king. And so forth. At some point when the book was talking about how God gave his son, one of my six-and-a-half-year-old twins stops her and asks, “Why does God make people die? She was the one who came up with the plan that people have to die.” Note first the deeply theological reflection on death here, as well as the implied question about God sacrificing God’s own son for our sake. Those are big things to wrestle with! Even for seasoned Christians. Second, notice how freely this little boy, whose favorite teases is to talk about how much he hates girls, so loosely speaks of God with the feminine pronoun. I have no desire to change the gendered references to God. However, I am at a loss as to how to answer his question about God and death and sacrifice. When he’s older I will point him to some readings on theodicy.
Second, the other day my nearly-four-year-old was talking with his mom about life as we all get older. He was trying to imagine what it would be like for him and his brothers to be adults. And he was trying to imagine his Mommy and Papa as grandparents when he said, “How can you be a grandma with that face you have on?” Good question.
A skeleton walks into a bar. He says to the bartender, “Give me a pint of your best brown ale . . . and a mop.”
I have wondered recently what polytheism is. In theory it is simple: monotheists believe that there is one god and polytheists believe that there are lots of gods. Thus, Muslims, for instance, are monotheists and Hindus are polytheists.
But it is not as simple as that. The ambiguity concerns what we mean by “God” and “gods.”
Take the Bible. In the Good Book the term “god” is not reserved for Yhwh, the god of Israel. The Bible recognizes many gods. (Ps 82:6, addressed to the divine council, is a classic instance of this, quoted approvingly by Jesus in John 10:34 on the very issue of a plurality of gods.) The gods of the Old Testament are heavenly beings that rule over the nations. Yhwh is one of many ‘elohim (gods).
So is Yhwh just one god among many? Is the Bible polytheist?
Not in any Continue reading
The IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships are currently underway at Hayward Field in Eugene. I had hopes of attending one or more days of competition, but in the end I decided to follow the action online and not burden our family’s already hectic summer schedule with yet another thing. Continue reading
I’ve had the fortune this summer of working on two projects that stand apart for me among the many book projects to which I attend. I am sure all of the authors with whom I work would like for me to tout their latest writing project. And if I had the time, I would. Despite the sometimes mundane tasks of cleaning up commas and repairing sentence structure, I really do get to have my hands in the making of a lot of wonderful books. A person could get lost for hours browsing the titles we publish.
Out now is Michael Gorman’s terrific new book on the atonement: The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant: A (Not So) New Model of the Atonement. As with all of Gorman’s books, I can’t recommend this one enough.
Newly appointed Dean of the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Joel Green, says this about the book:
With this biblically and theologically mature study, Michael Gorman shifts our focus away from fascination with the how of the atonement and toward reflection on the what: What does Jesus’s death accomplish? The result is a richly textured statement of how the atonement reaches deeply into the scriptural story of God’s mighty acts in order to present the consequences of the cross for the church’s faith, hope, and love.
Currently in the proofing stage is C. Clifton Black’s Reading Scripture with the Saints. In this book Black takes the reader on a tour of interpreters of scripture who have been both careful and formed readers of Christianity’s sacred texts. He uses “saint” flexibly to refer to magisterial figures who have been “set apart” in the cultural imagination. Given that description, I think the reader should be intrigued by the Table of Contents:
- Introduction Chapter 1. Welcome
- Patristic Stirrings
- Chapter 2. Trinity and Exegesis ”In which Trinitarian doctrine frames a reading of Ecclesiastes”
- Chapter 3. Serving the Food of Full-Grown Adults “Augustine preaches First John in the fifth and twenty-first centuries”
- Chapter 4. Listen ”Benedict rules today’s biblical exposition”
- Middle Ages
- Chapter 5. Transfigured Exegesis ”Twenty centuries of interpreters teetering on Mount Tabor”
- Chapter 6. Doubtless Thomas ”In which Aquinas probes the Fourth Gospel’s Prologue”
- Chapter 7. Luther Times Three “’Have Mercy on Me, O God,’ Martin cries across two decades”
- Some Early Moderns
- Chapter 8. “Not of an Age, But for All Time” ”King James’s Job suffers with Shakespeare’s Lear”
- Chapter 9. Searcher of the Oracles Divine ”Accompanying Charles Wesley on two breathtaking journeys from Jerusalem to Jericho”
- Chapter 10. American Scriptures ”Washington and Lincoln: biblical exegetes”
- Chapter 11. Until Later
In chapter 2 Black shows himself to be a tour guide with positions and commitments of his own. His Ten Theses for biblical interpretation with a trinitarian understanding harmonize well with the rising voices in the choir of theological interpretation. He says much about each thesis. I simply list them here and encourage you to get the book when it is available (hopefully) next month.
- Considered reflection on the triune God is appropriate to exegesis that attends to the Bible’s theological character.
- If, as the historic church has confessed, the Trinity is a true and faithful expression of the God whom it worships, then that doctrine inevitably bears on the church’s understanding of the Bible as Holy Scripture, its inspiration and sanctification, prior to its disciplined exegesis.
- Even as theology arises from worship, the native habitat for a Trinitarian approach to Scripture is the church and its ancillary communities, like schools of theology, whose special vocation in service to the gospel is the strengthening of the church’s ministry.
- No academic exegete is required to practice scriptural interpretation as herein characterized, nor is every student required to study the Bible as Christian Scripture.
- For Christian theological exegetes, Trinitarian doctrine tends toward a less sectarian, more comprehensive, and arguably less problematic framework within which to read Scripture.
- The components of a Trinitarian confession—the integrity of Persons that voluntarily respect the space between themselves and one another, thereby fructifying loving freedom—suggest a salutary framework within which to consider the variety of biblical texts, the diversity of interpretive methods, and the inevitable divergence among Scripture’s interpreters.
- A Trinitarian hermeneutic does not abjure historical criticism en bloc. It embraces and opens up historical investigation while challenging historicism’s fatalistic imperialism.
- A Trinitarian approach to exegesis is eschatologically pregnant, affirming God’s freedom to dynamite interpretive obstacles and to guide Scripture’s faithful readers to fresh, truthful insights.
- By its nature Trinitarian exegesis of Scripture engages the interpreter intimately. Properly construed, the relationship is not merely that of “subject matter” and “investigator.” Rather, it is nothing short of “Lover” and “beloved.”
- So understood, scriptural theology recognizes no insuperable division between scholarly and devotional reading, even though the needs of different communities respect differences of emphasis.
Whether or not one thinks of the current research on the historical Jesus as a “Third Quest” or not, the renewed interest in the past twenty-five to thirty years has provided much grist for the mill. Continue reading
Three or four times a week, I watch the late night talk shows. I’m especially partial to David Letterman, so his announcement of retirement was an occasion of sadness for me. I like Letterman’s deadpan, quirky humor. And on a more serious note, he can on occasion be a sharp interviewer, bringing out the best in his interviewees and producing some substantive, interesting information. That said, Letterman’s show has become predictable and a bit rote: monologue, top ten list, two movie stars, and a musical act in the last five minutes. Letterman hasn’t come up with new features for years. There’s a tiredness to the show. I suspect he was aware of as much and factored this in to his decision to retire.
Jimmy Fallon, over on NBC, acts quite differently from Letterman. He’s all rah-rah and hyper about every guest. His interviews, if such they can be called, play off how Fallon knows the guest and what they’ve done at parties, etc. He plays games (such as charades and flip the cup) with his guests, a feature that was novel the first three or four times but not so involving after that. What I do like about Fallon is his impressions of musicians (not least his rendering of Neil Young) and some of his sketches. Here Fallon plays to his real talents. And one other thing: you can’t beat his house band, the Roots, and if it’s not surprising that the Roots make excellent music, it is surprising how well they play straight man/men to some of Fallon’s comedic bits.
I’ve only watched snatches of other shows. Arsenio Hall is intriguing for his representation of black culture. Jimmy Kimmel shows creativity. On the “late-late” side, Seth Meyers does a clever monologue and has great bits with Fred Armisen; and Craig Ferguson is likable and fairly amusing.
Though I find the late shows relatively entertaining (otherwise I wouldn’t be watching), I wish they had a bit more depth. I don’t expect them to be shows for intellectuals, but Johnny Carson used to interview authors (like Carl Sagan and Gore Vidal) as well as movie stars. Now that tradition is continued by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Here’s hoping that when Colbert takes over for Letterman, he’ll bring this feature to his new show.
One of the curious aspects of my work as an editor is regular exposure to the bewildering intellectual diversity of Christianity—global Christianity to a certain extent, American Christianity predominantly. Since Wipf and Stock is not a confessional publisher and makes no effort to instantiate a singular, distinctive theological vision in the list of books it publishes, the authors we engage and the conferences we attend run the gamut from liberal Protestant to conservative Catholic, pentecostal pacifist to dispensational militarist. Of course, as editors we have to make decisions about what to publish and what to reject, and if we decide to publish something, we have to determine under which imprint will it appear, and so on and so forth. Each editor operates with de facto standards—theological, scholarly, and so forth—and we bring them to the table when evaluate new proposals. So not being a confessional publisher does not mean we operate in a theological or intellectual vacuum. Continue reading
From time to time I get in particular music moods. Could be hip-hop or classical, electronica or folk. My upbringing and my generation play a part in a couple of my musical moods. There are days when I have an itchin’ for some good ol’ country music of my Texas upbringing. Typically I go to the country music of the twentieth century. I know it may make me sound old and crotchety, but what passes for country music today is almost unbearable. I’d rather listen to a worn-out, depressed, and probably drunk Johnny, Waylon, Willie, Conway, etc. Or give me the big hats and fiddlin’ two-step tunes of Travis, George, Clint, Alan, etc. Dwight Yoakam combines the two and adds a dash of Elvis Presley, so obviously, he stands out as one of my go-to artists. A few weeks ago as I was making my way through the week’s new releases, as I do, I came across Sturgill Simpson‘s new album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. It is easily the best country music I have heard in well over a decade. I can’t recommend it enough. It is more a combination of Waylon and Dwight, with a dash of psychedelica, than it is big hats and two steps. It is just downright good music. None of the sheen and glitter of the bastardized music on country radio, and that’s a good thing!
But more than a country itch, though, I often find myself in the mood for the music of my high school days. That means I run to the 80s and what I will argue until my dying day is the best decade for pop music. One of my all-time favorite songs of that era is When in Rome’s “The Promise.” I love it. I don’t know why, I just do. Blame it on MTV.
Now back to Sturgill Simpson. He has a cover of “The Promise” on his new album. It blew my mind. It’s recognizable and yet something quite different. In other words, it is absolutely fabulous! See for yourself.