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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dave Caves: Ice Bucket Challenge

Yes, even though I protested (see 327 reasons NOT to do it)

 ..I took up the Ice Bucket Challenge..

but I did it my way.

It's here.

Watch at own risk.  Your mileage may vary.

P.S. I take off my shirt., and Noah makes a brilliant cameo.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Austin Farrrer on "probable tracks" of Jesus' temptations: subversion of Paethon and temple tantrum connections

hotel in Israel
Austin Farrrer , though apparently "one of the most profound and prophetic theologians of the twentieth century"  (so back cover says!) was new to me....but the price was right on one of his books (1.50):  "The Triple Victory: Christ's Temptation According to St. Matthew."

As one with a special interest in the temptations of Jesus, literary structure of Matthew, I wouldn't have resisted the testation to buy it at double the price (:

Come on..NO reviews on Amazon US or Amazon UK (He was British)?!...

"His activity in philosophy, theology, and spirituality led many to consider him the outstanding figure of 20th century Anglicanism. -Wikipedia

Turns out he was  well-respected by C.S. Lewis,and had an intriguing solution for the synoptic problem.  Wiki calls him a "maverick."

 I like him already...even if/especially if he is sometimes wrong (:

Even in the preface,  Frederick Borsh partly agrees with accusations  of  Farrer's sometimes fanciful flights into literary structural analysis, midrash and typology.  But he defends him as being  very thoughtful, creative..and ahead of his time as far as redaction/compositional criticism etc.  "He may have seen too many typologies, but he was not wrong in understanding that biblical writers often thought in typological categories.  This keen awareness pays particularly rich dividends in his study of Christ's temptations." (p. 2)

He does well, as does Donald Kraybill, in seeing many links from the temptations  to the rest of Matthew's gospel.

I haven't read enough for a review yet, so I'll  just

1)ask if any are familiar with this work

2)quote this:

Satan's insinuation...contains a hidden poison: "If you are the Son of God..If you cannot or dare not, what sort of divine Son are you?"...

Jesus declines..not because it is wicked..but because it is wicked to make a willful use of spiritual power...

"throw yourself down"...The suggested action is so utterly useless in itself, it can have one purpose only:.."Jump and find out; if you won't jump you can't really believe it."

...Christ refused to do what Phaethon did [doubt his paternity].  But could he have even thought in those terms? We may give a double reply.  First, though Christ did not think that God was an inhabitant of Jerusalem, he took the sanctity of the holy place with complete seriousness  He can, indeed, be  said to have pulled his own death on his head, by taking the law into his own hands and cleansing the temple from trade.  Second, we must say that in dreams or visions symbols become realities...

..It would be absurd to claim any sort of certainty for the suggestions we have advanced.  We cannot be sure what paths of association Christ's visionary thoughts, as St Matthew represents them, follow out.  Yet our guesses are not valueless.  They were the sort of lines along which a devout Jewish imagination ran; and the exercise of working out probable tracks and junctions in the movement of such a mind puts us in sympathy with the author we are trying to understand.Chapter IV

Women are upset that the Bible includes women??

Full article

Argggg.. don't get me started on this magazine, or the translation wars (see TNIV posts below, if interested..

GQ inteviews 30-year hermit, who reveals Meaning of Life

Fascinating article, complete at link:

The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit

For nearly thirty years, a phantom haunted the woods of Central Maine. Unseen and unknown, he lived in secret, creeping into homes in the dead of night and surviving on what he could steal. To the spooked locals, he became a legend—or maybe a myth. They wondered how he could possibly be real. Until one day last year, the hermit came out of the forest  link


"But you must have thought about things," I said. "About your life, about the human condition."

Chris became surprisingly introspective. "I did examine myself," he said. "Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free."

That was nice. But still, I pressed on, there must have been some grand insight revealed to him in the wild.

He returned to silence. Whether he was thinking or fuming or both, I couldn't tell. Though he did arrive at an answer. I felt like some great mystic was about to reveal the Meaning of Life.

"Get enough sleep."

He set his jaw in a way that conveyed he wouldn't be saying more. This is what he'd learned. I accepted it as truth.

"What I miss most," he eventually continued, "is somewhere between quiet and solitude. What I miss most is stillness.

Crushing family jewels or sneaking a peek to pray? Is Scripture an anaphrodisiac or sex manual? Are we Jesus and/or rapists? elevation or transference?

At first glance, the whole swath of Jewish teaching on sexuality/spirituality seems  like a muddled mash-up (midrash-up).  It may depend on which stream/rabbi/Judaism one attaches to..

But an underemphasized component (core?) would be "elevation":

...For the chasid, prayer is not something one recites, it is rather an exercise that one performs, or an
experience that one enters into.... There is no room for inhibition...singing and dancing are essential means by which ...he expresses his emotional cleaving to God….but
that desire for God has to be so overwhelming that any extraneous thoughts are excluded…If distractions are erotic in nature…and (one) faces up to the predominance of the sexual urge at both conscious and subconscious levels, and
its capacity to intrude even during prayer...then he has learned to take measures…Chasidism dealt with this by introducing the doctrine of the "elevation of strange
thoughts." This...technique not of sublimation, but of thought conversion, whereby the beauty or desirability of the woman is latched upon and used not as a sexual but rather as a mental and spiritual stimulus.... taught to "elevate" these thoughts by substituting the beauty of God for the
physical beauty that is currently bewitching us. (The pray-er) has learned to immediately contrast the pale reflection of beauty that humans are endowed with, on the one hand, and the supreme Divine source of authentic and enduring beauty,
on the other…

 Of course, U2 picks up the elevation theme with their song of that
 same name.  (See "Elevation leads to Vertigo 2.0":):
  "[Elevation] is fun and frolics but the goal is soul.  It is about sexuality and transcendence, a playful piece about wanting to get off, or in this case, to literally get off the ground.  I can't actually remember writing it, it was all over in minutes, which is probably not the greatest admission to make in a song about sex." (  Bono, in U2 by U2, p. 296)

Some funny and fascinating dilemmas (and trilemmas) arise in the debate and literature.

Is sex inherently sinful outside of the need to procreate?
Is sex the very starting place of spirituality?
What happens at the point of lust?

What to do/how to pray... if Rob Bell even partly right:

"For many, sexuality is simply what happens between two people involving physical pleasure. But that's only a small percentage of what sexuality is. Our sexuality is all the ways we strive to reconnect with our world, with each other, and with God." (Rob Bell, "Sex God," p. 42).

Maybe that word "reconnect" is crucial..maybe it even completes/transcends/ends elevation.  Isn't the Kingdom message about restoring Imago Dei, the "reconciliation of all things," and redemption of all creation..
Creation, in Romans 8,  "groans in longing"  Is that a "sexual" groaning/longing?   Have you noticed we often use "consummation" language about Kingdom come?

We are gnot gnostic.
 We duel dualism.

Bell has well made the point that "everything is spiritual."
 What if everything were also sexual?

Russell Willingham, my favorite  biblical sexpert, sometimes opens talks with this silencing salvo:

"Jesus had erections."

Can Jesus teach us how to deal with them?

"Eros and the Jews" may be TMI for some readers...and ironically too sexy...but it collects, like no others source, some of the rabbinic remedies:

  • Torah has been called an anaphrodisiac.
  • Cirumcision  has been seen as peeling back/cutting off  desire

  • Rabbi Mendel of Kotz offered appointments with young men with issues of lust, promising he could "crush it one for all"  I'm not sure I want to know what that "crushing" involved....(But we all know "some were made eunuchs for the Kingdom.")
  • "instead of imagining a woman during prayer, one must strive for the opposite" (that line caught me.  What is the opposite of a woman?  If you're thinking "man," you'll laugh, as that doesn't solve the dilemma.   He meant God; imagine God before you.

    Baruch of Kosov  even suggested that "sexual pleasure is the source of sanctification"

Crush your family jewels?
    But what if the jewels aren't the issue?
                     Circumcision of the heart, anybody?
                                       Remember a stunning sermon on a mount which dealt with sexuality?

I sometimes fantasize about speaking at a men's conference and saying,
"I'm now going to point to my primary sex organ.."

Then I point to my brain.


Whether it's a mind or heart issue..or both/and..

Maybe for many  the test is the "ten second rule," how long, or how to, linger/focus on the temptation/image...

You won't be surprised that some rabbis suggested actively seeking out temptation,even sexual sin, as the only way to learn.  (Shades of  a Maria McKee song)

Not recommended.. in fact such a strategy St. Paul explicity called B.S.

And if everyone is at heart ( and heart-level) either exhibitionist or voyeur,
acknowledging that may be the key.

I do recommend about Russell Willingham's section in "Breaking Free"  about why certain body parts/fetishes are attractive to us, and praying (explicity!) about what that indeed means..

Every sexual addict has a recurring fantasy (the internal ritual).  However, if he is constantly acting out, he doesn't have time to look behind the obvious scenes of nude bodies and sexual acts.  It is the longing behind the erotic symbols he is trying to satisfy.....

"Well, I guess you could say I'm a 'breast man''...
....How does this knowledge of the female body and its symbolizing of deeper issues  help us?  It helps us by showing us exactly where Jesus Christ needs to make his entrance.  The information I'm about to give you is the practical conclusion of everything this book has been moving toward: an intimacy with God that I believe the recovering sex addict is uniquely positioned to experience.  I call it the great transference.    "Breaking Free," pp. 169, 171, Read all of chapter 13

Once a group of pastors were praying for each other.  One confessed a struggle with lust.
I prayed(with words of compassion and encouragement)for the brother; then another pastor prayed
(a bit more prophetically, apparently).  At the close, the pastor who had confessed said something like:  "When Dave prayed for me, I felt like he was calling me Jesus.  When Bob prayed for me, I felt like he was calling me a rapist."

Aren't we all both?
If we get that, maybe we can start getting spiritually formed, reading the Book that is (among other things) a sex manual (see Willingham on Song of Solomon here)...........and the great Transference can be activated.

two heartbreaking songs about attending church

 Two heartbreaking songs about attending church..too bad they can't be played/sung/prayed in church..(along with this classic happy-clappy hymn)

"They Eye of the Needle" by The Divine Comedy

They say that you'll hear him 
if you're really listening 
And pray for that feeling of grace 
But that's what I'm doing, why doesn't he answer? 
I've prayed 'til I'm blue in the face 

The cars in the churchyard are shiny and German 
Distinctly at odds with the theme of the sermon 
And during communion I study the people 
Threading themselves through the eye of the needle
I know that it's wrong for the faithful to seek it 
But sometimes I long for a sign, anything 
Something to wake up the whole congregation 
And finally make up my mind 

The cars in the churchyard are shiny and German 
Completely at odds with the theme of the sermon 
And all through communion I stare at the people 
Squeezing themselves through the eye of the needle --
"Secret of the Easy Yoke" by Pedro the Lion

i could hear the church bells ringing 
they pealed aloud your praise 
the member's faces were smiling 
with their hands outstretched to shake 
it's true they did not move me 
my heart was hard and tired 
their perfect fire annoyed me 
i could not find you anywhere 
could someone please tell me the story 
of sinners ransomed from the fall 
i still have never seen you, and somedays 
i don't love you at all 

the devoted were wearing bracelets 
to remind them why they came 
some concrete motivation 
when the abstract could not do the same 

but if all that's left is duty, i'm falling on my sword 
at least then, i would not serve an unseen distant lord 

could someone please tell me the story 
of sinners ransomed from the fall 
i still have never seen you,
 and some days i don't love you at all 
if this only a test 
i hope that i'm passing, because i'm losing steam
but i still want to trust you 

peace be still 
peace be still 
peace be still 

Monday, August 25, 2014

NT Wright and CS Lewis on pointing your dog to something: sign>signified>signpost>sacrament

The whole video here by NT Wright is worth watching.

He so reminds me of C.S. Lewis with his series of apt metaphors.  Here are three

  • Think if I offered you a drivers license, claiming  i had authority to issue it
  • -Think if someone destroyed all bank records and evidence of any debt you owe? 
  • Think what would happen if you pointed at something, hoping for your dog to look at it?
  But let's focus on  the third (4:13ff) here:

 The telling and true-to-life illustration of pointing your dog towards something;
and the temple being a signpost pointing to something (Someone) else is so good.

Try it on your dog, I double dog dare you(:

He may have clarified this in the longer video of which this is an excerpt, but it's likely Wright is  actually drawing (as he often acknowledges) on C.S. Lewis:

The sunlight in a picture is therefore not related to real sunlight simply as written words are to spoken.  It is a sign but something more than a sign, because in it the thing signified is  really in a certain mode present. If I had to name the relation I should call it not symbolical but sacramental..
..I have tried to stress throughout the inevitableness of the error made about every transposition by one who approaches it from the lower medium only..You will have noticed that most dogs cannot understand pointing. You point to a bit of food on the floor; the dog, instead of looking at the floor, sniffs at your finger. A finger is a finger to him, and that is all. 
-"Transposition," from The Weight of Glory...someone has uploaded the whole essay here)


When did dogs figure out pointing?

Dog Breeds: pointing