Saturday, February 28, 2015

Comparison of Founders of Christianity and Islam

In the spirit of posting interesting links, here is one guaranteed to make someone mad.

I did read some of the Qu'ran citations, and one would have to read them carefully or in context to get the meaning this website does.  I think the word "rape" is used to be provocative, but the superiority of men over women in sexual terms is definitely there.  "Rape" is not what it used to be in public discourse.  

So I am not agreeing with everyone on here; it's just interesting.  And makes me sad.

http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Pages/Jesus-Muhammad.htm

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Downton Abbey Redux

I had promised myself I would not watch this show this season.  I fell from my commitment.  I started on the third show and picked up the second one on the re-do before each new episode.

Someone on the message board explained why this is a "posh soap opera." (love that British word).  The characters do not change.  They go through bad stuff and stay as stupid as they were.  Maybe a little bit of growth, but not much.  Only the servants maybe, but the wealthy don't get it. 

I realize some of the point is to show the constraints of social convention, so Edith can't reveal to the world she had a lovechild with Michael Gregson, now apparently killed by proto-Nazis.  I know Mary is the last bastion of the old way and her arrogance at social convention is a symptom of her superiority, but does she have to be such as b----?  And oh.my.word. stop with the Bates thing.  Someone on the message board said that their future life involves leaving Downton Abbey, moving to American, opening a hotel and having a son named Norman.  How funny. Some of the story lines have been idiotic.

But I still will watch, because it is addicting and even if I have absolutely no emotional investments in the characters (maybe Mrs. Hughes), the clothes are great.

Sovereignty of God vs. Free Will of Man

How's that for a title? A debate, an enigma, a conundrum that we have talked about at least since Job's time.  Spoiler alert:  This post will probably make a lot of people mad and some would say I should lose my job.  Whatever.  I am exercise my (limited) free choice.

I had a student once of Presbyterian background.  We were discussing theology and I brought up the sovereignty of God.  His response was to ask why that characteristic was drawn out from the nature of God and discussed.  How could God be God without being sovereign? For him, I think,  it would be like taking the heart out of a person and expecting the person to still live.  If God had DNA, sovereignty would be that DNA (God, of course, does not have DNA:  God is a spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth, John 4, the words of Christ, and probably some of the most overlooked).  My metaphors are clumsy, but the point is that to discuss the sovereignty of God sort of misses the point.

Anyway, I am always a bit wary or suspicious of us human beings thinking we have God figured out, just because we can quote chapter and verse.  Calvin said God speaks in baby talk to us.  I believe the Bible is what God wants us to know, not everything there is to know or that we could know.  Those who think that is heresy can stop reading now.  And this of course hinges on what human knowledge is and what it is capable of, which are epistemological questions.  One of my post doctoral goals is to become an expert on epistemology, because it is the basis of education. 

Back to the title, then. If the sovereignty of God is a topic that we engage is like fish talking about life outside of water, then the free will of man is a myth.  How much do we really have control over? I would posit that we only have free will in a very narrow area, despite modern science's attempts to change men into women and vice versa and any number of other things.  (The latest is a child with three parents.  And this is seen as progress?)  We have no control over our race, gender, DNA, parents, place of birth, early childhood experiences.  We only have moral choice and a limited realm of choices about place to live and career, family life (spouse and children), economic conditions, health practices.  Those are not to be sneezed at, of course, and compose a significant part of our lives.  I am simply saying that to talk about free will as an absolute counterpoint to the sovereignty of God is not helpful or honest.

(I am talking about the world as a whole here, not just the West.  What I am saying grates against Westerners, but if we think in terms of the big picture, free will has historically and even now been very limited.) 

Of course, it could also be argued that (a) Christianity opens our range of choices, as does education (b) even without the faith, we do not explore all the choices we have (which makes me wonder how much exercising of free will--or not--is built into us) and (c) we do not recognize our choices.  We say we have free will on one hand and then "I couldn't help it, I had no choice."  Morally, there is always a choice. That is the core of the Christian faith.  "Choose you this day whom you will serve."  At the same time, I don't think we'll every really appreciate how much grace constrains our choices, making absolute free will only a hypothetical construct, not a reality. 

Don't worry, I am not some sort of biological determinist.  An earlier post on Darwinian Hegemony is related to this point.  If we buy the evolutionary paradigm as not just a way the species got here but as some sort of norming device (the way the species was 500,000 years ago is how we should live now in terms of sexual practice, diet, community, etc.) we are then biological determinists and logically have no right to talk about change or progressiveness that doesn't fit that paradigm.  (By the way, I am not a Darwinian, I am arguing against that position on the basis of its own premises.  Darwin had a basic paradigm--survival of the fittest, and the world has been shown to be cooperative rather than competitive.  Even from a biological standpoint, species have found ways to coexist, not destroy each other, in a remarkable balance. )

 (However, I believe that is because God made it that way from eternity past, not because of chance.  The actual mechanisms and the time periods we can argue about somewhere else.  I am not going to state there is no microevolution and that the species have not changed in however many years.  But in 10,000 years of human existence, we have not essentially changed except to the get taller (and fatter), so why should I believe other species have changed from one to another by growing legs or wings?  If all we do is add more and more time to the picture, then the odds just become greater and greater.)

Perhaps I am a grace determinist!  The walking point is take full advantage of the range of free choices you have.  For me this morning it means take my dogs for a walk in the snow we got last night--seven inches!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hegemony of Darwinism

This article from Breakpoint, which I have retitled.

Hegemony of Darwinism

I heard some colleagues discussing such issues yesterday and was shocked by the arrogance of the scientist, who conflated Intelligent Design and Creationism.  They need to study their own history if they think they are so moral and superior.  Humility serves us all.

I am adding this note after the fact.  I want to add that it seems ridiculous to explain all human behavior by evolutionary terms, just on a logical basis.  That would mean we should act like animals since, theoretically, that is our genetic background.  Then we can justify anything. 

Career Advice from an Old Person

This from Linked In
Good advice

Note that the writer is not saying "Don't excel."  He is saying "Don't be narcissistic."

Narcissism is the bane of our age.  We don't even realize it, it is so embedded in our beings as Americans in 2015.  Much worse, it is embedded in our faith lives as Christians.  We have so little concept of "we."

There is a beautiful snow falling outside so my college was called off for the morning.  I am thankful, as I need time for personal projects.  I would have had to go in late anyway. 


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Another Foggy Sunday Afternoon

I just got back last night from a three-day trip to a professional conference. This one is near and dear to my heart--the Georgia Communication Association.  I am the president until February 2016.  It is a great group.

I realize what remember means.  Time dis-members; we re-member.  We bring back together what time has disintegrated.  I like that metaphor. 

I also thought of a great title.  "The Other Part of We."  Gotta use that sometime.

I often write for every day of Lent, but am taking a different approach this year.  Jesus was pretty clear in the Sermon on the Mount that talking about what you give up (fasting) is not acceptable.  And the human heart grabs quickly to the self-aggrandizement of self-denial.  Lent is about looking forward to something for 40 days.  Lent is about the community, not about me, anyway. 

We are entering the crazy time of the academic year--everyone trying in the next eight weeks to get done what should have already been taken care of to some extent, or otherwise trying to wrap things up.  I am deeply overwhelmed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dissertation Daze

I am in the midst of revising my dissertation after a two-hour call with my advisor Monday over what it needs.  Oh. My. Word.  I understand the "expert in that one tiny subject you do your dissertation on" thing.  My head hurts.

I also now, having spent 30 hours this week on revisions, why doctoral candidates remain ABD--for life.  It's a soul-crushing, life-sucking experience.  And this from a person who has published two textbooks and four novels, so I know about writing.

Yes, I admit it--I was affiliated with Tennessee Temple

I do not tell people this until they have known me a good long while.  It's not a matter of shame, but . . . well, it is a matter of embarrassment.  What is the fine line between shame and embarrassment? 
I did nothing wrong, so it's not shame.  But I don't want to be judged by their ideas of something else.  This is foolish, because as soon as I say anything self-referencing, I will be judged by someone, some way, because despite our supposed freedom, we are living in a very judgmental culture--just that we are judged on things that make no difference, like whether we eat meat or not, or breastfeed our children til they go to first grade, or drive a certain make of car.  It doesn't matter if we have really done something that really hurts others, just don't wear leather.  What a sorry state of affairs.

I'll say it--this will peg me even worse.  American is not moving toward judgment. America is being judged.  Even if it is "just recompense" or "law of consequences" or if it's directly from God, we are under judgment for our greed and selfishness primarily.

Back to the topic.  I graduated from there and taught there twelve years.  I did good work.  I still have former students who honor me, so God is good.  Extremely good, far more than I could ever ask or think and of course deserve.  I have many former friends, and believe or not, many, many good memories.  I do not hate the "place."  I do not love it, really, either.  I just don't think about it.  I can go days and not think about those years--17 to be exact.  There are in the back of the closet, in a box, taped up, securely.  But I always take that box with me when I move.

Fifty-One Shades of Indifference

I saw an interesting post on the referenced movie above (I don't even want to use the real name of this sick crap).  I shared the link because I liked what it says.  A certain person decided to go off on it, and it's hard not to take it personally.  I don't want others to see the diatribe . . .

However, the point is, please please please stay away.  Satan will only use this kind of material against you.

A Serendipity

Time:  Easter Morning, 1997.  Place:  Cambridge, England; Eden Baptist Church, one of the largest Baptist churches in a country not known for Baptist churches (although, ironically, the birthplace of them, according to some historians I have read.)  It is a morning I will never forget.  The visiting preacher, Orland Saer, spoke from the story of the travelers on the road to Emmaus.  Later I met a couple from the states who were missionaries in a seminary in Ethiopia, and the husband was studying at Cambridge to get his Ph.D.  They had attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and I knew some former students who went there to study after Temple days (which I never speak about, maybe I'll write a blog post on it).  They knew my former students, who were also friends.  So, thousands of miles from home, I meet people who know friends of mine!  It was a great morning for me, because I had been in England nine days and was getting homesick, and it was sweet to be around other believers so far from home.

I said all that to say this, that coming home from work tonight I was listening to Janet Parshall, and she was interviewing Orlando Saer!  I always have wondered what happened to him.  He is a pastor in Southampton, England, now.  So cool. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Observations on a Rainy Sunday Afternoon Before Football

I will probably go to a movie rather than watch the Super Bowl, since I have no use for football.  My son and I visited the Hunter Museum, which is free on the first Sunday of the month.  I cannot say enough good things about the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, and I saw some new pieces of the collection. 

I am a big disturbed to find out that someone I had long admired is anti-semitic--or was.  Martin Luther.  He developed shocking and disconcerting views as he aged.  Perhaps a result of his mental illness and depression, but nonetheless wrong and possibly influential in the wrong way.  This is definitely an experience of cognitive dissonance.  Having been acculturated in fundamentalism/evangelicalism, which reveres the Jews (although in a particular way), I find anti-semitism very distressful.

Our pastor pointed out last week that the Lord Prayer says, "Out Father, . .  . give us . . . lead us . . . deliver us . . . . "  Not My Father, give me, lead me.  This is a paradigm shift.

Finally, I may go attend another biopic. Biopics are "based on  a true story," but they aren't true stories.  We so want them to be, but they aren't. 

Purple in a Field

In Alice Walker's The Color Purple , she has Celie say a line that paraphrases to "I think God is upset when we pass by the color...