Friday, April 30, 2010

On Final Papers, Spurs, and Matters That Matter

One 12-page Ethics paper down, a 34-pager on Christians' care of the earth due Saturday, a 15-pager on Yoder due Monday, and a 20-pager on the City of God due Tuesday.

Four more nights.

Incidentally, the Spurs won their first round series tonight against the Mavs. Things are looking good on that front.

But as always, perspective: none of these things matters much. Four nights left, about 30 pages left to write -- they'll get done. I'm hoping to get A's, of course, and it's good to do one's best; but as unjust laws are passed and earthquakes rattle nations and oil spoils the Gulf -- it's wise to remember that in truth, there is nothing to be worried about. What to make of quickened heartbeats for a group of men throwing around a hollow ball for 48 minutes?

God give me grace to be attentive and faithful to the work I've been given, but more so to remember that I have a bed, a roof, food, and love.

May we all be freed from our various self-incurred and fleeting anxieties.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Wendell Berry

Our weekend camping trip canceled by severe storms and tornadoes, it seems fitting (as it always is) to share a poem from Wendell Berry, who has has been absent from these parts for too long. This one is from his collection Given, and his third Sabbath poem from the year 2000. Enjoy.

- - - - - - -

As timely as a river

By Wendell Berry

As timely as a river
God's timeless life passes
Into this world. It passes
Through bodies, giving life,
And past them, giving death.
The secret fish leaps up
Into the light and is
Again darkened. The sun
Comes from the dark, it lights
The always passing river,
Shines on the great-branched tree,
And goes. Longing and dark,
We are completely filled
With breath of love, in us
Forever incomplete.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Katelin

In August of 2000, on the first day of my freshman year of high school, in "Talented and Gifted" English with Mrs. McGuire, as an earnest and eminently bookish 14-year old, I met a fellow student who, seven years and four months later, I would marry in the same city.

This is a great mystery.

On July 5th, we will celebrate six years of being together; in August, 10 years of knowing each other; in December, three years of marriage.

And today, 24 years of Katelin's life on the earth.

What a gift to share our life together. Happy birthday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Best of the Theological Blogosphere in 2009 (and on...)

I had intended, with my movie and music wrap-ups for 2009, to continue with posts on the theological blogosphere and on the year here on Resident Theology, but things just got too busy. Now it's April, so it seemed like I should give it up; but who cares? I felt late to the blogging party anyway back in 2008, and had to find my way slowly, discovering a writer here, a professor there, a fellow student tucked away in a corner. When so much of the discourse on the internet, even and especially on matters divine, is critical and even callous, why not celebrate the feast of good work being done, available for free, and open to surprising connections between people who otherwise would never have met? Below is my non-comprehensive guide to what is personally most compelling in the theological blogosphere -- in other words, what I read. At the bottom I list a few that I just started reading recently, and I welcome suggestions and comments from other readers.

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All That To Say... — Mark Love is the Director of Missional Leadership at Rochester College in Michigan. As a former preacher and professor at Abilene Christian, and having just finished his PhD course work at Luther, Mark's experience and training give him a wonderfully creative and playful approach to theology in general, and to reading biblical texts in particular. Also, I stole my "Sunday Sabbath Poetry" series from his "Dylan on a Sunday" series, which is hitting two years this summer.

An und für sich — Quite possibly one of the most prolific and thoughtful group blogs around, especially given that the authors aren't getting paid. Adam Kotsko & co. have created an engaging place for philosophical, theological, cultural, and textual conversations to be had; and Adam in particular is a kind of blogging force of nature, routinely offering innovative and off-the-wall comments and interpretations on any number of subjects. The snark rears its head from time to time, but it's usually in good fun. And even when it's not, it's no less worth the read.

The Church and Postmodern Culture — This one ebbs and flows, depending on recent releases or engagement with particular works, but when it's going, it's great. The contributors and books claimed and produced here are especially noteworthy.

Clavi Non Defixi — Evan Kuehn, though a long-time read for many, has been a recent discovery for me. Evan focuses primarily on matters academic, journalistic, ecumenical, historical-theological, and/or library-related. Though often reliable enough as a purely compendious source, Evan also offers constructive thoughts on a regular basis in relation to current events in his fields of interest. I should also add how impressive his levelheadedness is, given the waters he regularly wades into.

David Ayres: Prayers & Poems — David is a friend from Abilene Christian, and he's just now finishing up his undergraduate degree in Bible, on his way to an MDiv and a rich ministry of the word. He also happens to be one of my favorite poets, and it is a grateful marvel that such a gifted wordsmith is going into full-time preaching.

Experimental Theology — Richard Beck somehow finds the time in his busy schedule as a husband, father, professor, teacher, researcher, speaker, writer, and sometime-preacher not only to post on his blog daily, but to plan and execute complex, long-term series exploring such extensive subjects as purity and defilement, religious experience, and the theology of Calvin and Hobbes. Though I regret not getting to know Richard while in Abilene, it's been wonderful sharing various conversations back and forth since moving to Atlanta.

Faith and Theology — Ben Myers' blog is the premier theological entry in the genre for good reason. His easygoing, facilitator style creates space for conversation and cross-pollination, serving as an exemplary model for the medium, while his excerpts from papers and forays into constructive work are exceptional. Not that he needs one from anyone, much less me, but F&T comes with the highest recommendation.

The Fire and the Rose — David Congdon, PhD student of systematics up at Princeton, doesn't blog a lot anymore; but when he does, it's worth reading.

God's Politics — Though the flurry of posts bears weeding through, and I continue to have my worries that Jim Wallis has become a soft spokesman for the Obama administration (and/or thinks first in terms of "values" and "the global context" and not "the church"), there is still a great deal of penetrating thought and extraordinary work being done by, at, and through the Sojourners folks.

Inhabitatio Dei — Halden's blog is a warehouse of sincere ecclesial concern, rich theological depth, unyielding rhetoric, and constant cultural criticism. As it stands Halden is the regnant gadfly of the theological blogosphere, and even when exaggerating or targeting someone or something he deems blasphemous, his posts not only ensure you know where you stand, but the force of his arguments demands careful attention to one's own and clarifies the importance of the witness of the church in America. In other words, essential reading.

James K.A. Smith — Though I've been exposed to Dr. Smith's work in myriad ways, I haven't had the opportunity to sit down and read a book of his start to finish -- a lack I hope to remedy soon -- but it has been enjoyable to be able to read him in short bursts online. (And it is an overwhelming challenge to realize just how much out of his discipline, including fiction and poetry, he reads!)

Joshua Case — Josh is a fellow MDiv student at Candler, and I enjoy telling him that he is wrong on a regular basis. He is also an immensely talented thinker, writer, networker, dreamer, speaker, minister, and podcaster. Universities and seminaries prove their worth by creating space for people like Josh and I to argue matters out, at the very least with respect, hopefully in love. That has certainly been the case for us, and I'm glad to know the kind of work Josh is doing is being done by the kind of person Josh is.

Michael Gorman — Sitting in Austin's airport last January, I discovered to my surprise and delight that Michael Gorman -- the Michael Gorman, eminent New Testament scholar and hero of my brother Garrett -- had added me to his blogroll. I quickly returned the favor, not simply as thanks, but because I had long been reading Gorman's work (both on and offline) and continue to appreciate his various emphases in reading Paul, admiring his position vis-a-vis the interlaced Hays-Wright-LTJ schools of thought. It is a strange, and if anything a cool academic/ecclesial world we inhabit, where scholars like Gorman take up blogging. Hopefully others continue to follow suit.

Narrative and Ontology — Philip Sumpter is an Old Testament PhD student in Germany with a perpetual flow creative engagement of texts, the Psalms in particular, as well as what seems like a wholesale intimacy with the work of Brevard Childs. Good stuff here.

Paul J. Griffiths — Clearly the most erudite and learned spare-time blogger I am aware of, Griffiths' every-so-often posts -- on Catholicism, on Augustine, on literature, on politics -- are simply extraordinary fair.

Per Crucem ad Lucem — Jason Goroncy seems to me the most disciplined and unique blogger on offer: an Australian Presbyterian minister and theologian, with expertise in P.T. Forsyth and interests in cooking, the arts, and more. I enjoy especially his "Monthly Bests" that update us on his reading, watching, listening, eating forays. Fun, different, and always something new.

Peter Leithart — Leithart's attention to the text and -- not here a contradiction! -- theological readings thereof are unparalleled, and the quick shots across the bow that constitute his postings are concise, direct, and always on point. How are we so lucky that such a man blogs on a near daily basis?

Preacher Mike — Mike Cope was the preacher at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene for nearly two decades before leaving the position last summer. I had the privilege of being a member at Highland from 2004 to 2008, as well as both being a student in a class taught my Mike at ACU and taking a graduate course with Mike as a fellow student. Though God has graciously not called me to the pulpit, Mike Cope proved to me simply through the patient gracefulness of his own preaching that the proclaimed word continues to have power to shape God's people over time. My own understanding -- and understanding is surely too weak a word -- of Scripture, proclamation, women's roles, new creation, and the mission of the church are all profoundly grounded in four sustained years of attending to the weekly voice of Highland's pulpit. That Mike is no longer regularly preaching only means his other work, which most certainly includes his blog, has more attention.

Rain and the Rhinoceros — Another excellent blogger who only resurfaces from time to time, Ry Siggelkow (no less fake-sounding than his actual pseudonym, R.O. Flyer) does great work and always commands attention when he posts.

Seeking First The Kingdom — It has been an odd and unique pleasure to have come to know Jimmy McCarty first by way of reading one another, and then in person, and now in friendship. I first read him on Sojourners more than a year and a half ago; we learned of one another's blogs by way of our respective engagements with torture and with the homeless; then we discovered we each belonged to that strange American tradition called the churches of Christ. Jimmy finished his M.A. at Claremont last May, then moved here to Atlanta to begin his PhD in Religious Ethics at Emory. He and his wife now attend our church and belong to our small group, and it has been a happy accident of circumstance for our paths to converge in this way.

As for his blog, though I continue to be a faithful subscriber, unfortunately since doctoral work began Jimmy hasn't been able to write as often as before. I still encourage anyone interested to check him out, as he is an astute and contrarian observer of those forms of life reflective, as well as negating, of Jesus of Nazareth. Plus, I tell him just about every time I see him that he's got to start blogging again!

Theology Forum — This one is run by Kent Eilers, Kyle Strobel, and Steve Duby, and from what I can tell, attends to various theological topics from a decidedly Reformed/Protestant perspective. There have been some rich discussions here recently, and I always enjoy seeing a new post up, as I know I will inevitably be learning something new.

Theopolitical — Davey Henreckson, PhD student at Notre Dame, keeps things straightforward and on topic: intersections between theology, political theory, and historical practice, usually in the form of reviewing or walking through important books, never without personal or constructive comment. This is an area of which I am supremely ignorant but in which I am extremely interested, so Davey's blog is an indispensable resource.

Vita Brevis — I came to John Penniman's blog by way of Evan's link to his unbelievably helpful guide to applying to PhD programs -- which, I will have you know, I printed out and read twice over, with liberal underlining and highlighting. (It is my field guide for this fall's descent into application hell.) Since then I've come to realize that I barely missed John here at Candler (he left a year ago for Fordham), and have come readily to enjoy his entries in historical theology, particularly of late regarding the evolution of Roman primacy in relation to the Catholic Church's recent troubles.

Recently added to Google Reader: Connexions; Der Evangelische Theologe; Ecclesial Theology; This Side of Sunday

So what is everyone else reading? What do you love that's on this list? What omission is glaring? What non-theological blogs are essential regardless of discipline?

Friday, April 16, 2010

In Lieu of NBA Playoff Predictions ... Augustine on Allegorical Interpretation of Noah's Ark

I was planning on posting my whole series of picks for the NBA Playoffs, until I came upon John Hollinger's picks that were exactly the same as mine. Well, he already wrote the column, so no need for me to repeat it here.

(My Finals pick: Cavs over Suns in six. If not the Suns, in order: Spurs, then Mavs, then Lakers. But Cavs win no matter what, as I predicted in October, when I said that if it wasn't the Spurs, it'd be the Cavs all the way. So there you go.)

Instead, then, let's have a bit of the good Bishop:

"Yet no one ought to suppose either that these things were written for no purpose, or that we should study only the historical truth, apart from any allegorical meanings; or, on the contrary, that they are only allegories, and that there were no such facts at all, or that, whether it be so or no, there is here no prophecy of the church. For what right-minded man will contend that books so religiously preserved during thousands of years, and transmitted by so orderly a succession, were written without an object, or that only the bare historical facts are to be considered when we read them? ...

"But none but a contentious man can suppose that there was no prefiguring of the church in so manifold and circumstantial a detail. For the nations have already so filled the church, and are comprehended in the framework of its unity, the clean and unclean together, until the appointed end, that this one very manifest fulfillment leaves no doubt how we should interpret even those others which are somewhat more obscure, and which cannot so readily be discerned. And since this is so, if not even the most audacious will presume to assert that these things were written without a purpose, or that though the events really happened they mean nothing, or that they did not really happen, but are only allegory, or that at all events they are far from having any figurative reference to the church; [it] has been made out that, on the other hand, we must rather believe that there was a wise purpose in their being committed to memory and to writing, and that they did happen, and have a significance, and that this significance has a prophetic reference to the church."

--St. Augustine, City of God XV.27

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Guest Post for Josh Case: 11 Theses on Faithful Theological Dissent, or: How to Be a Heretic Without Being a Tool

Over at Josh Case's blog, he's got another guest post up by me, entitled "11 Theses on Faithful Theological Dissent, or: How to Be a Heretic Without Being a Tool." This is actually a re-post from about a year ago here on this blog, but I figured it would be new to both his audience and more recent readers here. Check it out, and enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America: A Look Back at his Seminal Work

It is a difficult thing to believe that Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (New York: Avon Books, 1977) was released more than 30 years ago. To read this book in 2010, in what seems culturally to be the height of the ecological crisis—or, at least, of widespread acknowledgment and responsiveness to it—is to realize that the very issues that seem so pressing today, indeed that seem so controversial today, were not only present but an identifiable threat at least half a century ago! This is cause for both celebration and lament, for on the one hand, we recognize a man like Wendell Berry, and his extraordinary work, as a courageous godfather to the movement, providing the very possibility of recognizing today’s ecological crises in the language and forthrightness with which we speak. On the other hand, we are able to see how inexpressibly small, how unhappily futile, the fight against the abuse of the earth has been and continues to be. For that very reason, the clarion call that is The Unsettling of America has lost none of its voice or power, the realities and problems to which it spoke in 1977 being just as much present, and even more so, 33 years later.

The purpose of the book is straightforward: it is “meant to be a criticism of...modern or orthodox agriculture” (p. vii). Exactly what orthodox agriculture is, the reasons for its needing to be critiqued, and how it is related to the “culture” found in the book’s paired subtitle, is for the rest of the work to demonstrate. Berry’s thesis is multifaceted and his argument even more elaborate, but we might put it this way: modern industrialized agricultural practice and thinking are damaged and damaging, both in relation to and with roots in the broader context of contemporary America, such that the ecological crisis is a crisis not merely or only of agriculture, but of character and culture, too, for the health of the land is inseparably bound up with the health of the community, the body, and the spirit. The only appropriate response must therefore involve an equally complex diagnosis of every part, accompanied by a holistic vision of health that does not attend to one aspect of life to the neglect of another. This, though a daunting project and certainly not fully attainable in 223 pages, is the task Berry sets before himself.

In exact accordance with the aim of his project, Berry is firmly planted in his context. A farmer himself in Kentucky, the son of multiple generations of farmers going back, the story he tells and the problems he identifies are neither universal nor placeless, but the story of agriculture in America and the particular problems attendant to that place and that people. And as it is written in the late 1970s, the policies, politicians, and published works he interrogates belong to that particular time as well. Thus the book’s first chapter opens by setting the stage of the present with the initiating conquest of the past (“The Unsettling of America,” pp. 3-14), rendering the reader immediately aware that this is not, in an important sense, a new problem, but one inscribed in the very DNA of the American project. The last two chapters bookend this concern and commitment by telling the originally hopeful but eventually corrupted story of the agricultural colleges in America (“Jefferson, Morrill, and the Upper Crust,” pp. 143-69), and by concluding with the personalization and first-hand experiences of those on the margins of society and of orthodox agriculture, ordinary Americans unwilling to submit to the regnant “science-as-superstition” ruining the land and the people (p. 173; “Margins,” pp. 171-223).

In between the stories told in these chapters, and Berry’s assessment of them by the form of his telling, lies the body of the book’s argument. These proceed respectively as analyses of character, agriculture, culture, the ideal of the “future,” the use of energy, and the relationship between the earth and the body. Though these seem to be discrete “areas” of analysis, Berry does not allow them so to be separated, but rather includes each subject in every chapter, intrinsically a display of the overall argument that none can be separated from the others. A chief example of this interconnectedness is Berry’s discussion of health. Health cannot mean “merely the absence of disease,” but much more, for “the concept of health is rooted in the concept of wholeness” (p. 102-3). The wholeness of the human person includes body and spirit, the wholeness of the community all human persons, that of the land all creatures (human and non-human), that of the creation all of the preceding, together as one (pp. 103-12). This discussion leads in particular to the household, the sexes, marriage, and fidelity, but its presence and point here exemplify Berry’s unrelenting message throughout the book: that everything is connected, and to address only a partition here or there is inevitably to fail.

Stepping back for a moment, the impetus for Berry’s writing is the intolerable “exploitive revolution” (p. 9) and its devastating consequences for the land, for fellow creatures, and for human health, vitality, community. The idea that farms must be mechanized and industrialized, must be dependent upon petroleum and corporations, must be profitable to the nth degree—this is catastrophically disastrous for the care of the land and the cultivation of food, and therefore concomitantly disastrous for everything that is connected to the land and requires food—from which nothing, of course, is excluded. But because the industrial imagination has so quickly and so forcefully taken hold of the collective mind of the public, this orthodoxy must be challenged from every direction and on every issue. The resources for this challenge lie in a common heritage, in America’s “until now subordinate tendency of settlement, of domestic permanence” (p. 13). From this past a wholesome future may be forged in which men and women are not divided and conquered by money, but know their limits, work in gratitude, live by thrift, belong to a place, make enough but not more than they need, know their neighbors, contribute to their communities, exist in relative self-sufficiency, and raise up their children to do the same.

In evaluating the various strengths and weaknesses of Berry’s argument—and it really is the case that there is one coherent argument that constitutes The Unsettling of America, only cast and carried out in various ways and with myriad emphases—its very nature precludes a middling response. That is, one either buys it, or one doesn’t; there is little middle ground. The connections between house, place, household, ground, food, children, marriage, politics, and economy are as precisely intertwined as Berry presents them, and therefore his articulation of the problems or health of one implies that of all the others. Thus to agree or to disagree with him about one or another is almost certainly to lead to agreement or disagreement about all of them. In a sense, one would have to disagree about the connections themselves to get out of this predicament, a task I think neither possible nor attractive; in which case, I find myself agreeing in nearly every instance with Berry’s argument.

This does not mean the work is without weaknesses, or that there are not questions or challenges that remain for Berry to answer or address. (Fortunately, in the decades since the book’s publication, Berry has written prolifically, so in many instances we have received such answers and responses.) Here we will focus on two areas of inquiry that pose challenges to Berry’s project: the nature of the past, and the source of his convictions. We will see not only that these are problematic for Berry, but that they are intimately related with each other.

As stated above, it is in “our history” that Berry finds “the answers” (p. 13). As a concrete example of this conviction, we find the influence and thought of Thomas Jefferson sprinkled throughout the book. Jefferson, however, is not an unproblematic character: when the man writes of land being apportioned to small landowners (pp. 143-4), he does so as a white man concerning other white men. And the land he himself owned was worked by African slaves. This particular case opens up a wider problem, namely, how to draw on a history and a tradition no more innocent than today. With what justification are the enormous sins of the fathers looked past for the sake of the “health” with which they apparently cared for the land, their families, and others—particularly if slavery, patriarchy, and conquest cannot be separated from the related issues of culture, agriculture, and character? To be sure, the colonization of America and the history it inaugurated are for Berry the beginning of an awful and self-incriminating story, whose fruit is the industrial revolution and all its abuses. His title for the inheritor of this history is the “industrial conquistador,” living far from his work, sitting lazily before a television, eating food unprepared by him or his family (pp. 52-3). So the problem is not that Berry does not recognize the problem; it is that he does not specify how and why the past may and ought to be submitted to and appropriated for the sake of healing contemporary alienated communities, their members and their work, and the land. It seems clear that the past contains resources rich and available for imitation and use today; less clear are the methods and standards by which to do so.

In a related way, it is unclear on what grounds persons with substantively different worldviews ought to agree with Berry’s argument. He seems to presume an American audience with shared cultural commitments, including a Christian religious heritage, a Western literary inheritance, and a liberal democratic political tradition. But what if one either does not share these heritages or, sharing them, does not share any commitment to them? And what if those in either of these groups constitute the majority of the nation? It is not that Berry’s arguments cannot remain compelling, but their ground and force are to a large extent swept away if, say, one believes marriage to be an unjust social fiction, or materiality a curse, or the good whatever is most profitable, or autonomy the summum bonum, or competition the heart of progress, or limits an imposition, or religion an opiate, and so on. Berry’s worldview is constituted by an interlocking set of inherited and personalized beliefs about the world, many of which he seems to project onto the broader American public. This projection may have been descriptive in the past, but it is certainly not so today. In one way this observation makes Berry almost doubly convincing, for instead of a universal appeal, his argument becomes even more particular and bound to a tradition—a recognition I believe he would welcome and has acknowledged in more recent writings—but it also unfortunately helps to explain the defensiveness and vitriol that often accompany responses to his writings.

For some, a chief drawback to Berry in general—one which is profoundly on display in The Unsettling of America—is the rhetoric with which he characterizes the modern predicament and lays waste to technological habits and assumptions. For Christians this can only be further evidence of the truthfulness of his speech, for, as Ellen Davis and others have recognized, this rhetoric is the same as that of the Hebrew prophets. And to be sure, Wendell Berry is an American prophet. Belonging to a place and to his people, with a ferocity of love that is the only explanation for his anger and resolve, Berry simply will not stand for anything but shalom—“heal, whole, wholesome, hale, hallow, holy” are his touchstones for health (p. 103)—and indeed, in the end, he holds up the “Christian agriculture” of the Amish as the paradigm for kindly use and care for the “unique, irreplaceable gift” of creation (p. 213). As much as anyone, the church ought to know that drastic times call for drastic speech, and The Unsettling of America is the programmatic statement, cast in language fit to the crisis, for a mission to reclaim, resettle, and resituate the earth—in joy, in hard work, in health, in gratitude. Given the scope of the task, Berry’s abundant success is all the more impressive.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Theological Speech in the First, Second, and Third Person

It seems reasonable to say that, for the church, in creaturely relation to the triune God, there are three primary modes of personal speech. In reverse order: the third person, that is, the sermon, proclamation about God as subject; the second person, that is, prayer, talk to God as object; and the first person, that is, the Word of God as subject and object, the divine self-communication of the eternal Logos become flesh, and the witness to that Word in the word of Scripture.

Salvation, then, would involve -- or, better, would itself be -- the Spirit's work of disciplining and healing our use of the third and second person by the first, such that, moving back out, our talk to and about the Father would be both determined by and enveloped in the one Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Every work claiming to do Christian theology -- claiming, that is, to talk truthfully about the triune God -- must, therefore, as the incurable act of speaking in the third person, never be divorced from speaking in the second person -- that is, praying -- if it seeks to be faithful to its subject and object, and finally can only be judged by constant and perpetual submission to the speech of the first person, which is the crucified and risen Lord, as witnessed to in and by the biblical texts. To do otherwise, to separate one voice from another, is explicitly to step outside of the discipline of theology, and indeed to step outside of the community of the church, for only in the latter does the former find its coherence, impetus, accountability, and confirmation.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Remarkable Quote by Robert Jenson on the Old and New Testaments as Scripture

"It may therefore be already apparent that the Old Testament and the New Testament are Scripture for the church in different ways. The Old Testament was Scripture for the apostles and other disciples before they were ever the church. The language that speaks about the church adopting or taking over the Jewish canon is malaprop. ... The New Testament, on the other hand, is a product of the a particular juncture of the church's history. Had the Lord returned as quickly as was first expected, the church would never have depended upon or been thought to depend upon any other Scripture than Israel's."

--Robert Jenson, "Creed, Scripture, and Their Modern Alienation," The 2009 Burns Lectures at The University of Otago, 23:00 minute mark

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Kevin Hart for Easter Sunday

Friends: The Lord is risen.

He came, he walked with us, he suffered with us, he broke bread with us. He did not fight: he was mocked, beaten, and executed. He died. Like all men, he was buried.

But today, he lives again. The grave is empty, for all time.

What was dead with his body in the tomb, stays dead forever: all sins, all failures, all mistakes; all fear, all pain, all darkness; all tears, all disease, all death. They are dead, once and for all, where his body once lay.

But he is alive, in the city of God, and he reigns forevermore.

Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!

Hallelujah to the King of Kings, and hosanna in the highest!

He is risen!

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By Kevin Hart

This is where the deserts end.
This is the city where the dead still live.
Here, at evening,
The sun and moon are both still full,
And when you arrive
The road can take you nowhere else.
Enter this inn
And see its empty table, its dead fire,
This window where
Those distant mountains stare into the past.

That woman with a broken jar,
That young man
Feeding swine in the sad desert twilight.

They say that silence leads us here,
That we are led
As if by hand, wind running fingers through the dust;
Inside, the silence
Will take you by the hand.
Here you bow to enter doors;
Here, a man once came
As one of us
To speak of all that we are not.

Now feel this stillness
Where two opposing forces clasp: this is the room
Where bread is broken
To make us whole, the inn of our desire.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Resource of Book Blurbs

Working in a theology library, I constantly note regular names that show up on the back of books; I even find myself in the habit of unconsciously predicting who will be recommending what for which reason (and so on). One also gets used to the "regular names," one of which is of course Stanley Hauerwas, who recommends his friends, his students, his colleagues, his enemies, and more, in a relentless and unending form of scholarly charity. A less prevalent name is Robert Jenson, who seems to pick his spots, only recommending the truly groundbreaking or pivotal works he deems worthy of a blurb.

But how helpful and interesting would it be to have a gathered collection both of the scholars blurbing and of the books blurbed? Does anyone know of an online resource for book blurbs? And if not, who can get the legwork started? Almost a kind of open source Wiki-Blurb. I, for one, could definitely lose some downtime searching and reading through something like that.