Thursday, October 26, 2006


A couple of things via Dr. James Davila at Paleojudaica, both on the subject of scholarship in the world of Theology and Biblical Studies.

First Davila makes note of the...well, vindication is probably an overstatement, but we'll call it the slight rehabilitation of Norman Golb's theories about the nature of the Qumran community and its famous library (the Dead Sea Scrolls). Golb has long theorized that the Scrolls are not a single sectarian collection (more or less the common view) but instead a collection of many varied Jewish writings collected and preserved at Qumran during the 1st century CE. I have very little to say about either theory. Though I am very interested in the Scrolls and I've read them all and read a good deal about them, the questions involved are far beyond my own expertise (which means they differ not at all from most areas in Biblical Studies). What I wanted to comment on is the beauty of Golb's insistence on his theory in the face of all but universal disparagement. I suppose you could just as easily call his attitude pig-headedness, but it's the kind of pig-headedness I love. It reminds us that scholarship is not a democratic venture and just because the majority endorses an idea, that doesn't give it automatic credence. All theories must be weighed carefully and considered with as much honesty, openness and curiosity as we can find.

Which leads me to the second note on scholarship via Paleojudaica. Stephen C. Carlson (check him out at Hypotyposeis) has recently released a book called The Gospel Hoax, which I understand to be a rather scathing attack on the authenticity of a putative Gnostic text called Secret Mark. I haven't read the book, and I have even less experience with Gnostic texts and Secret Mark than I do with the DSS, but that's not what I want to comment on. In his review of Carlson's book the well-known biblical scholar Bruce Chilton reminds us of one of the great dangers of any form of scholarship. I quote from his article:

No literature has suffered more from this problem [popularization] than that of the second century of Christianity. In the case of "the Secret Gospel," a modern researcher ( Morton Smith himself, or someone whose forgery duped Smith) has made up a Gnostic document in the attempt to manipulate scholarly discussion and public perception. The fact that this attempt succeeded for so long stands as an indictment of American scholarship, which prides itself on skepticism in regard to the canonical Gospels, but then turns credulous, and even neo-Gnostic, when non-canonical texts are concerned.

Now, I think that Dr. Chilton's suggestion that American scholarship is neo-Gnostic might be a bit much, and from what I've read I'm not entirely convinced that this problem is any more prevalent in America than in other milieus. That being said the general timbre of his comment strikes a chord with me. As a young (hopefully) future biblical scholar I do indeed feel the inclination of some in the scholarly community to default to a belief in the radical and fascinating for its own sake and the consequent pressure to follow this trend. This is, I'm sure, an inevitable consequence of the "publish or perish" rule. Interesting and edgy will always outsell strait forward and predictable. I'm not trying to imply that scholarship must be dull in order to be accurate, or that unorthodox ideas are necessarily poorly constructed. What I am saying is that even in the academic world the marketplace is often driving the bus.

All of this to say that scholarship, regardless of the precise form it take or it's exact scope of inquiry, should be an attempt to know more. That may mean the defense of the indefensible (or at least the wildly unpopular) or it may mean coming to terms with the less than sexy results of your thorough research. But we seek on regardless. So, here's to the seekers, be they edgy or pedestrian, mainstream or maverick.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Best Quote...

I came across one of the better quotes I've ever read in a friend's email recently.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."
-Mohandas Gandhi

I got the quote from the email alone so I can't give a better reference than this or personally guarantee the attribution (though I do trust my friend), but it sure sounds like Gandhi doesn't it? I'm by no means an authority on the Mohatma (saw the movie, read a little about him here and there) but from what I know it seems to me that Gandhi understood the ethical truths about which Jesus spoke better than most. This quotation is the kind of thing that could just as well have been spoken by the Christ himself. Check out the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in particular, and you'll see that one of the key elements of Jesus' message was the reversal of expectations. He came to invert the world as we see it or, as the Apostle Paul put it, to make "foolish the wisdom of the world" (1 Cor. 1:20b NRSV).

Gandhi's quote about forgiveness reflects this inversion perfectly. It is natural to believe that asking for forgiveness weakens us and that offering forgiveness makes us look pathetic. Neither of these things is true. A person who forgives does what a weak, prideful, self-involved person can never do. He or she sets aside the right to be angry or vengeful not to keep peace, but to create peace (I would suggest that there is a phenomenal difference between the two). A person who asks for forgiveness also does what a weak, prideful, self-involved person can never do. He or she sets aside the desire for self-justification, the desire to think of oneself as righteous, again in order to create peace.

What we perceive as greatness is not, what we conceive of as power is not. We have been deceived. Though many of us don't know it and those of us who know so often forget, the world has long since been set on its head.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rest and Peace...

It seems that a great many people in my life are in the midst of severe pain and struggle. Not everybody to be sure, but more than seems usual to me. I'm not talking about angst or frustration here, I'm talking about pain. Family members in the hospital, businesses in serious distress, the disruption and even destruction of life...pain. We all know that it's very hard to know what to say when somebody hurts, especially when there is little or nothing that you can do to help. That being said I think that our words can help, even if it is just a little. I write the rest of this in that spirit.

During the shabbat meal it is my understanding that Jews bless one another with the words shabbat shalom. These are Hebrew words, found many times each throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (aka the OT if you're a Christian like I am). Like every language there are some Hebrew words that are more pregnant with meaning than others, and these two words are among them. Simply translated shabbat means "rest" and shalom means "peace." This rest is most clearly exemplified when God completes his work of creation and then rests on the seventh day (cf. Gen 2:2). It doesn't simply mean to cease being active but carries the sense of respite and even celebration. I can't think of an act or event in Scripture that exemplifies the total meaning of shalom, but suffice to say it means more than an end to violence. It also connotes safety (Ps. 4:8), prosperity (Ps. 35:27), calmness and comfort (Is. 26:3), and is among the characteristics of the future rule of God that we call Heaven.

Rest and Peace. These are the things that I wish and pray for my friends. Rest and respite from pain and toil and celebration when pain and toil cease. Peace, comfort and calmness within trials and joyful relief when those trials come to an end. And so to all of you who read this may these two great words, these pregnant words, these words that bend and groan under the weight of their own meaning be made real in your life. As I write this it is both the end of the Jewish Sabbath and the beginning of the Christian Sabbath. It's also thanksgiving weekend. I can't think of any better blessing to offer on this holy day than to say this: shabbat shalom.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Too Big...

I've been thinking recently about big problems. I've posted about some of them on this blog...things like Canadian foreign policy in the middle east and such. Today it was the rather terrifying reality of global warming. Jin and I watched bits and pieces of a televised discussion forum on the dangers of pollution and global warming, and in particular Canada's approach to these problems.

The environmental issue is, I think, one of the best examples of problems that are too big for us to grasp. I'm not entirely convinced that any group can honestly say they've wrapped their heads around all of the economic, social and environmental consequences of various theories on the environment. If we do X, then all of our grandchildren will have three arms, but if we do Y we'll all starve to death because we won't have jobs (another scenario that doesn't turn out too well for the grandkids). The globalization effect is the same kind of thing. Is Wal-Mart evil or just a natural by-product of the best system we can come up with? The list of these big problems goes on and on and I continually ask myself how I should react to them.

Very often when I was growing up I heard people say that no problem is too big for God. I think that's true, but also has the potential to be a tremendously dangerous idea. This is where many Christians (and conservatives from other religious traditions as well) get into trouble on the environmental issue. "If this is God's world," some say, "then He will take care of it and it will end when He decides no matter what I do" (yeah, I know it's grammatically incorrect to capitalize the pronoun "he" in that sentence, but evangelicals do it all the time in an attempt to show respect for God using grammar so I thought I'd do it for the sake of authenticity). That kind of thinking scares me. We are responsible for the way we live in this world, including the way we live on this world. That being said, however, I think there's a kernel of truth in this kind of pseudo-christian fatalism.

The are problems that are too big. They are too big for me or for you or for any one person (including, I think, individual world leaders like presidents and prime ministers). There are God-sized problems in the world. This does not mean, however, that we are not responsible. We have parts to play, even if they are small. I don't buy the dichotomy that either God will save us or we must save ourselves. God will save us and we must save ourselves. There are things that we cannot do. We cannot alter hearts, we cannot be responsible for the nature of death and the next life, we cannot imbue to world with love and grace, we cannot be responsible for judgment and cosmic justice. Those things God must do. We can respond to God's lead, we can allow our hearts to be altered, we can behave lovingly, gracefully and responsibly. Those who think that only God is responsible and those who think that only people are responsible are fools both.

God is responsible, and so am I.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Welcome Back...

Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip premiered tonight...or to be more accurate is premiering as I type. So far I only have one thing to say. Mr. Sorkin, Mr. Schlamme...welcome back.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Devil Games or Man that Takes Me Back...

Wandering about on Heimy's blog I ran across a post that took me back to my college days (damn, thinking about the fact that I have "college days" sure does make me feel old). Heimy makes note of the wonderful, fantastically low-tech video game X-Com. This game is a Devil Game. Now before any of my conservative readers get bent out of shape (something that is unlikely to happen as I have almost no readers anyways, and most of them aren't all that conservative, see last post) let me explain. A Devil Game is a video game that does certain things to one's life. There are very specific criteria that make a game a Devil Game. They are as follows:

1.If you play a game for more than 6hrs in one sitting, it is a Devil Game.
2.If you intentionally choose to play a game over spending time with other human beings, it is a Devil Game.
3.If you neglect pressing matters like homework, work, bathroom breaks, etc. in order to play a game, it is a Devil Game.
4.If you play a game instead of sleeping, it is a Devil Game.
5.If you spend your time away from home thinking about playing a game, it is a Devil Game.

Anyways, Chris has recently discovered a new video game with the same essential concept as X-Com. I hate to burst his bubble, but there have, in fact, been at least three evolutions of X-Com itself over the past decade or so. I once very seriously considered buying one for Chris as a b-day present, but thought that it would be cruel to expose him again. Like buying a dime bag for a heroin addict or bringing some Johnny Walker Blue to an AA meeting.

Anyways, Chris' post brought me back to the old days and I felt the need to ramble. Night all.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Absence Makes the Heart...

So I'm pretty sure that after my long thesis hiatus I'm back to a readership of none (or one if you count my own narcissistic perusal of my blog). That's a bummer cause at my height I actually had a few regulars. Oh well, not much to be done about it I suppose. I'm gonna keep blogging regardless, mostly because this blog was always about self-indulgence and self-gratification anyways. So, for those readers who do happen across me once again, cheers and welcome. And to my one true regular, at least I'll always know that you agree with me.


Jin and I went out tonight for a nice little date. Saw a show, went for a walk, ate dipped cones from Dairy Queen. The movie was Click starring Adam Sandler. It was a pretty standard romantic comedy with some good Sandler brand humor. I won't give too much away but suffice to say that this is an "I wasn't a good enough person and regret that I wasted my life on work instead of family." There was, however, one quite touching bit in the middle. Sandler, on his death bed, gives advice and love to each member of his family, ending with his estranged wife. To her he says only one thing, "I'm sorry."

I don't know exactly where my life will take me. I have some dreams and goals and ambitions, but in the end I'm pretty much okay with the fact that there are some things that I think I'll do that I won't ever end up getting to. But even knowing this there's at least one thing that I don't ever want to have as a part of my life. I don't ever want to die apologizing. I'm sure I'll have regrets, and I'm sure I'll be disappointed with some parts of my life, but I pray that my last words will not be "I'm sorry."

To die being sorry is to die believing that you have truly squandered your life. Though I vacillate on the exact nature of what will happen when I die, I think that at least part of it will be an encounter with God, a judgment of sorts. I wonder if I could ever face God, the one who gave me the opportunity to live, and tell him that the opportunity was wasted on me.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What Does Winning Look Like?

Jinny and I were out in B.C. this weekend visiting her family. It was her grandparents' 60th anniversary, very cool. While I was there I saw the cover of a recent Maclean's magazine with the title "What Are We Dying For?" I didn't get a chance to read the article (busy weekend) and I don't have a subscription (thus no link to the article either), but I'm pretty sure that I know the general tenor of the question. The picture over which the title was laid was of a coffin being carried out of a military transport with a Canadian flag draped over it. My guess is that this article was asking the same questions that I hear friends and family and people in supermarkets asking...why are we involved in a shooting war on the other side of the world and is our presence there accomplishing anything positive at all? Before I go any farther let me just say that I have absolutely no answers to these questions, or to any questions that have to do with these questions.

Winding down this evening I was watching TBTVSAT and came across a short exchange with some powerful words. The character Leo McGarry (played by the late John Spencer), the Chief of Staff in President Bartlett's White House, was discussing the problem of western involvement in the Middle East. Though the immediate context of the conversation had to do with events surrounding Sorkin's fictional country of Qumar, the basic principles certainly apply to the real world. McGarry asks whether the only way that the conflict between the West and the Middle East will end is with "the American flag flying over Mecca?" In the same conversation he says that he "doesn't know what winning looks like anymore."

What does winning look like? Is it found in total withdrawal from the region or in total commitment to military action? The first option would, I think at least, be the most likely way of ensuring that western nations (Europe, Canada, the US, etc.) would cease to be targets for jihadists. It would also, however, mean leaving allies like Israel to their fate, to say nothing of millions of people still living under the oppressive thumb of religious dictatorships (I'm thinking particularly of women in countries like Iran). The problem with the second option is, obviously, its imperialist tendencies. If modern history has taught us anything it is that telling people how to be better people at the point of a gun doesn't work very well (and is more than a little bit arrogant). So what does winning look like? I haven't got the faintest idea. But I have one question to ask about that question.

Is "winning" the right metaphor?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Back in Black...

So I'm back into the blogosphere!! I figured I'd change up the old template a little bit to celebrate (plus it gives me the chance to use this cool/cheesy title). The first chapter of my thesis is done (draft one at least) and I've moved on to research on chapter two. One of the nice things about getting beyond literary theory and methodological concerns is that I can get back into ancient languages and literature. So much more fun than literary theory...and also much closer to anything that I might call an area of expertise.

Not a whole lot to natter on about in my first post back. I've been spending most of my time either working on a translation of Daniel 7-8 or reading books by one of my new favorite authors, Patrick O'Bryan. O'Bryan is the author of the series of books that the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World was based on. Though the film is wonderful it's not exactly an accurate portrayal of the books. Hell, there are 21 books, you can't really blame the film-makers. The books are tremendously fun, very historically and technically accurate and contain some of the best written characters I've ever come across. I recommend them highly.

Another random note, I recently read what is maybe the single best blog title of all time on Kat and Chris's blog. It's called David, Destroyer of Worlds and is (not surprisingly) about their newborn son David. Very very funny. Teehee.

That's it for now, though I have a couple of posts in the hopper that I might get out soon. Cheers.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Even Better than the Real News...

I've been thinking for a while now that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is a better source for information about the world than the real news. For those of you unfamiliar with The Daily Show...well first of all buy yourself a damned television...the show it is a spoof based on real news programs. It's probably the funniest thing on television right now and is my favorite thing to watch after the Greatest Television Program of All Time. Some of the wonderful things about the Daily Show include: a fantastic sense of irony, interviews with people who are actually interesting and influential, George Bush being mocked (not hard, but still hilarious), and a very well executed marriage between subtle political humor and crass low-brow jokes. When it comes to the Daily Show, however, the greatest irony of all is that this fake news show happens to be a far more accurate window to the world in which we live than the real news. This is true for two principle reasons.

First of all the Daily Show is entertainment and we all know it. What many of us don't know is that every regular news show on television (particularly US television, but it happens here in Canada too) is also principally about entertainment. Neil Postman pointed out a long time ago that television is a communication medium that has more to do with entertainment than anything else (cf. Amusing Ourselves to Death). That's how the news works in North America. Note the catchy music, cool graphics, and the way anchors bounce from profoundly distressing events to the local dog that can water-ski. But because the news promotes itself as "real" and "serious" it makes many viewers think of it as actually real and actually serious, when it is in fact neither. The Daily Show, on the other hand, is so blissfully and self-consciously absurd that nobody who is even semi-intelligent can fail to realize that entertainment based on reality is what is being offered.

Secondly the Daily Show does a great job of deconstructing itself, the mainstream news media and the world at large. When you watch Jon Stewart commenting on the news of the day you get essentially the same actual information as you would on the regular news (I suspect that any given news program only contains about ten minutes of actual information about what is happening in the world). The other thing that you get, which is absent in most real news, is ironic (though usually accurate) commentary on that actual information. By doing this Stewart and his crew continually point out the inconsistency and insincerity of politicians, pundits, reporters and public figures (and private figures sometimes too) as well as the spectacular (and perhaps frightening) idiocy that is pervasive in the world in which we live.

It's important to note that though I say that the Daily Show is a more accurate window into the world than the real news, I certainly do not mean to say that it is truly accurate. All that I'm trying to say here is that it's time for us to stop thinking of the regular evening news as "real" and start thinking about it as pre-packaged, entertainment based, news-like programming. Perhaps Stephen Colbert's word "truthiness" would best describe what I'm talking about.

Monday, July 10, 2006

It Has Begun...

Though my profile has been saying for a couple of months now that I am writing my master's thesis, until now this has only been partially true. I haven't been writing so much as researching (which in my case basically means a whole lot of reading). As of last night, however, all of that has changed. I am now actually writing my thesis (5 pages in as of this afternoon). I'm in the process of creating the first draft of my second section (the first major section after the introduction) which is basically an elaborate argument in favor of Paul Ricoeur's interaction theory of metaphor followed by a slightly less elaborate argument attempting to explain how allegorical (as in 1 Enoch) and symbolic (as in Daniel, though I'm not sure I'll keep this terminological divide between symbol and metaphor) systems function in essentially the same way as interactive metaphors. All of this to say that blogging will likely slow down considerably over the next little while as I will be trying to expend the lion's share of my creative energy writing my thesis. If anybody cares (which I frankly kind of doubt), my apologies. May I recommend the vastly superior blogs on my sidebar for your reading pleasure? Paleojudaica and Slacktivist are particularly worth regular visits. So, cheers all, and I'll see you again when I'm done writing the absurdly arcane and never-again-to-be-read product of months and months of work.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I Hope Not to Fail...

I read the words of a dead man today. In truth I read the words of dead people every day. Philosophers and theologians, apostles and prophets, all men and women who have passed through the veil. This was different. The man who penned these words walked with dead feet, breathed with dead lungs, saw with dead eyes and wrote with a dead hand. His name was Colin Mackay.

I discovered Colin Mackay at an online publication house called Originals Online. He wrote a book chronicling the final nine weeks of his life, the nine weeks just prior to his suicide. I haven't read the whole work yet, and I'm not sure that I will, but I have read an excerpt from the first chapter. It is here that he explains the reason for what he calls his calm and rational decision to kill himself. I quote:

I did not think, "“Why?"” I knew the why. For years I have known it. For years it has walked beside me, whispering in my ear. It is my fury, my shadow. Its name is failure, I think. Failure to become fully human, to give life, and save life. Failure to do more than observe the passing of the world. Failure to return my thanks for the gift of breath, and leave the world a richer place than I found it. It is what I see from the corner of my eye, the thing that always vanishes whenever I turn to face it. I cannot enter a room without wondering if it is waiting for me, if it has finally tired of the game and is going to let me meet it, face to face.
(Colin Mackay, Jacob's Ladder, downloadable at Originals Online).

I believe that we can fail. I don't know if Colin Mackay actually failed, but I'm sure that failure is possible. He strikes, I think, the core of failure when he laments his "[failure] to do more than observe the passing of the world." This is my fear, to do no more than watch the world as it passes, an observer in what should be an interaction. This is, unfortunately, precisely what the culture in which we live encourages: passivity. But I hope not to fail.

I hope to interact, to involve my life with the lives of others. I hope to engage with other knowing subjects and change and be changed by them. I hope to be a friend and husband and son and brother and father and teacher and student and on and on and on and on. I hope never to sit before a blank sheet of paper contemplating my suicide diary. I hope to, as the poet says, rage against the dying of the light; not for fear of death, but because there is yet good for me to do.

I hope not to fail.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Good Guys and Bad Guys...

Jin and I (along with my sis and some friends) went to check out Superman Returns the other night. It was a much better movie than I had heard (I think Roger Ebert was particularly hard on it), though by no means Oscar material (or even watch for a second time material for that matter). But it was fun and things blew up, so no worries. There is one little tidbit that I found to be insightful in (I assume) a completely unintentional, and therefore highly ironic and amusing, way.

There's this bit in the movie where Superman is just beginning to reclaim his role as the great protector of humanity. This comes, apparently, after a few years of backpacking around Europe (read here: traveling distant regions of space and the depressing ruins of his home world of Krypton) trying to find himself. In what is seemingly an attempt to settle into his new environs Superman flies up into the thermosphere (or maybe it was the mesosphere, this point was never made clear) and begins listening carefully to all of the noise of pain and suffering on planet Earth. As we listen along with Superman we hear crimes as they occur. I can't remember much that is distinct among the wave of noise, but I am sure that at one point I heard a little girl's voice crying out for help. On hearing this cry Superman, of course, rushes down to the planet below to save this poor, defenseless child...or not. Instead the little girl's cry is immediately drowned out by the sound of, you guessed it, a bank robbery. Superman's eyes snap open and he launches himself down to a large metropolitan bank somewhere in the continental United States (really where the hell else are you going to find a bank worth robbing? Switzerland I guess, or maybe the Caribbean, but they have much stricter gun-control laws which may have hindered the thieves in obtaining their boom-mounted gatling gun).

Are you kidding me? In a world of 6 billion people he couldn't find a potential rape or murder victim to save, a woman being abused by her husband, a pedophile kidnapping a child? A bank? Seriously? What the hell kind of superhero is this guy? People are dying, pain and suffering everywhere, the world is on the brink of coming apart at the seams, but let's make sure that our property is safe. Let me clarify that I have no problem with personal property, and I really hope that nobody ever robs me (I am setting aside the fact that robbing a bank only really hurts the bank and their insurance company), but given Superman's crime fighting assets I really think that he could have done better here.

I doubt that Bryan Singer or any of his co-producers are actually trying to say that possessions are more valuable than people, but this subtext seems to jump out at the viewer regardless. Either way the spectacular irony (and indeed hypocrisy) of this subtext is the fact that the film's villain Lex Luthor is presented as evil precisely for engaging in this sin of valuing wealth over people.

Is there, then, a real difference between Superman and Lex Luthor? Between hero and villain? In the structure of the story as a whole the difference is immense, but in this small instance of subtext I think that we see with far more accuracy the truth of human nature. At the core the difference between "good guys" and "bad guys" is much more slight than most of us wish to believe.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

On Both Your Houses...

It would I appear that I am something of a rabbit's-foot-in-reverse for sports teams that I cheer for. I just spent a generally enjoyable morning/afternoon watching the FIFA World Cup quarter final games today and both of my teams lost. That's right, I was pulling for England and Brazil and they both fell in games that were nailbiters right up to the end. Actually they were only nailbiters at the end, but what are you gonna do?

I wouldn't make such a thing out of my bad luck charm status if it weren't for the fact that none of my teams can ever quite get it done. In hockey I cheer for the Oilers, in Canadian Football for the RoughRiders, in American Football for the Eagles, and so on and so on. In fact I can hardly remember the last time that the team I was cheering for in any championship event won. From all of this I can only draw one inescapable (and only mildly narcissistic) conclusion...I am at fault for the losses of all of these teams. I am a sports version of small-pox.

As a result I wish to offer my condolences and apologies to Beckham, Rooney & Co. as well as to Ronaldo, Ronaldinho & Co. It was not my wish to jinx you and I am sorry. As for the rest of the World Cup finals I feel that I should go on the record. I am explicitly not cheering for Italy and I explicitly am cheering for Portugal, Germany and France. Let's just hope my charms don't wear off now.

Friday, June 30, 2006


I'm eating up time I should be spending on my thesis right now in order to post on something that I read this morning. Through a rather meandering route of blog surfing (which I won't bother to try to recreate) I ended up reading an article written by a guy named Paul Porter about the recent death of Kyle Lake (a young pastor who was electrocuted while performing a baptism, check out the details here). Go read Porter's article for yourself and make your own determinations, but I feel that I need to say something here, though I'm honestly not sure what.

When I read sentiments like those that Porter expresses I am torn. There is a part of me that wants to be angry. Very, very angry. I want to rip him up, tearing into every single hermeneutical error he commits and laying bare his true intentions for the world to see. I want to make him bleed intellectually, spiritually and (frightening as this is) even physically. Then I take a breath, I reflect on the words of Scripture, and I come to realize that as a follower of Christ I don't get to do these things.

So what's left for me? I suppose that I could write this gentleman a cordial letter of concern, outlining how my opinions differ from his and how I feel that his words might be damaging to the reputation of the Church and Christians everywhere. Unfortunately I have too much experience with these kinds of people. I doubt that my well intended remarks will find a home in the heart of a man so hopelessly lost in a labyrinth of his own personal self-righteousness.

The only thing that I can think to do is say something to everyone else out there, particularly those who do not confess to be Christians. On behalf of the followers of Christ everywhere, I apologize. I am sorry for our cruelty, for our ignorance, for our hatred, for our self-righteousness. I am sorry that we cannot even show love and grace towards each other. I am sorry that, as hard as we try, we continually fail to demonstrate the truth of the Gospel in our actions.

May God forgive us.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ad Nauseam...

I was just checking out an article at Slate (check it out here) about movies that people have watched again and again. None of the films listed there are on my list, but I certainly do have a list. This is one of those things that I think you do or you don't do (watching movies multiple times I mean). I absolutely do this. In some cases I love the story and want to see it again and again. In other cases there may be a particular way that the story is told like the acting or writing or directing. Add to this the fact that I really don't like dead time. Even when I'm cooking or cleaning I prefer to have some kind of background noise on. If I lived in a stand-alone house I might crank up my stereo, but as is I think that might piss my neighbors off unnecessarily. Instead I throw on a movie that I like or, as is far more frequently the case these days, an episode or two of The West Wing (aka The Best Television Program of All Time). I therefore present here, for the first time, my Top Five favorite movies to watch over and over again (find the movie reference in this sentence and win a prize!!).

1. High Fidelity - I have no idea how many times I've seen this movie, but it's a hellofalot! The writing is great, the music is great, it's funny and touching and edgy all at the same time. And if all of this weren't enough...John Cusack ladies and gentlemen!
2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Okay, shut up! This is a great movie and I feel totally justified watching it again and again. Seriously, shut the hell up! Okay fine, the acting is tragically wooden, and Potter fans are the poster children for Nerds Anonymous, but I still love this stuff. The first film in particular is, I think, an excellent translation of Rowling's world onto the big screen. For pure cotton-candy, escape-from-reality fantasy nonsense, you can't beat Potter.
3. The Matrix - This film has the distinction of being both packed full of action and brimming with pop-culture pseudo-philosophy (read here: philosophy without the pain and hassle of actually reading Plato and Aristotle...or, you know, thinking very hard). The Watchowski brothers hit it clear out of the park on the first try, revolutionizing both the special effects industry and the possibilities and potential of ultra-violent action movies as social and political commentary.
4. The Usual Suspects - Best murder-mystery movie ever! The first time I watched this movie I had never heard anything about it. I picked up the one copy that was available at the movie store and watched it in the middle of the night. It almost broke my brain. I still watch it because I like to see the setup for the big plot twist. Plus Kevin Spacey rules.
5. Grosse Pointe Blank - John Cusack takes the top and the bottom of my list. This movie is darkly, deviantly funny. It takes a common Hollywood caricature (the mysterious Hitman) and turns him into an actual person visiting his high-school reunion and feeling angst over the general emptiness of his life. I can't see myself ever getting tired of this one.

And there you have it...five more reasons to believe that I am, indeed, the biggest nerd you've ever met.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Here's another little tidbit from The Name of the Rose (which I am still slowly, but faithfully, reading...what a great book). This scene takes place in the vast library at the monastery, which our heroes Brothers William and Adso (the narrator) are exploring without permission. They wander across a book containing information concerning unicorns in a room whose purpose is to store books containing only falsehood. I mention it here because just last week I remember chatting with some friends at life group (read here "small group," "Bible study," "church group," etc., for those unfamiliar with the term) about the existence of unicorns and I thought they might appreciate this little excerpt from Umberto Eco (on the off chance they end up wandering about here). Without further ado, the excerpt:

"But why have they also put a book with the unicorn among the falsehoods?" I [Adso] asked.
"Obviously the founders of the library had strange ideas. They must have believed that this book which speaks of fantastic animals and beasts living in distant lands was part of the catalogue of falsehoods spread by the infidels...."
"But is the unicorn a falsehood? It's the sweetest of animals and a noble symbol. It stands for Christ, and for chastity; it can be captured only by setting a virgin in the forest, so that the animal, catching her most chaste odor, will go and lay its head in her lap, offering itself as prey to the hunters' snares."
"So it is said, Adso. But many tend to believe that it's a fable, an invention of the pagans."
"What a disappointment," I said. "I would have liked to encounter one, crossing a wood. Otherwise what's the pleasure of crossing a wood?"
(Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose. Translated by William Weaver; New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983: 315).

I love the fact that it isn't seeing the unicorn that gives Adso pleasure in crossing a wood, it is simply the hope of seeing one. Amen to that.


I just want to throw out a big "attaboy" to Mr. Bill Gates, Mrs. Melinda Gates ("attagirl") and Mr. Warren Buffet. I don't know a lot about corporate or personal philanthropy, and I am by no means an expert on charity and relief organizations. I can, however, count to 30 billion (though it might take me a little while). For those of you who haven't been following along thus far, Warren Buffet has just donated $30 billion (yes, with a "b") to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (check it out at the Washington Post,here). The foundation is involved with a great many humanitarian projects throughout the world, including research into AIDS/HIV as well as other incurable diseases that ravage the developing world. As I said above, I don't know a lot about organized charity but I simply can't see how this gargantuan donation can do anything but help. So to Mr. Buffet and Mr. & Mrs. Gates...Damn good job!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Speaking of Superheroes...and Self-Promotion...

Since we're on the subject of superheroes I just thought I'd provide a link to my own moment of pseudo-heroism from last summer (aided of course by my equally heroic sister and wife). Check it out here...and the water wasn't really all that bad (though I kept my mouth shut pretty tight).

On to Serious Matters...

Since my last few posts have been about trivial matters I thought it might be time to offer my thoughts on something a little more important: who is the better superhero, Superman or Batman? Like all of the most important debates in the world this one has been going on for a very long time. There are strongly held opinions on both sides and I know that emotions run deep. I want to ensure my readers that though I offer my opinion on this issue, I realize that it is merely opinion. For those of you who disagree, I hope that my words here do not create an insurmountable obstacle and that we might still engage in discussion on other less sensitive issues like religion and politics.

And now, to business. I will offer five simple reasons why Batman is a preferable superhero to Superman.

1. Superman is too perfect. He's bullet-proof, he can fly, he has super strength and super speed. I don't understand why this guy ever looses any fight. His only weakness is kryptonite, a glowing green extra-terrestrial rock.
2. Which brings us to our second point. If this was your only weakness, wouldn't you pay a little more attention to it? Maybe develop some kind of technology that would detect kryptonite from a distance, like a kryptonite Geiger counter. This leads me to believe that Superman isn't really all that bright. All brawn...
3. But what of Batman you say? Batman's greatest single quality is his incredible will. This simple man, with no supernatural powers at all, trains himself to combat evil. He is powerful because he is driven.
4. Batman is a little nuts. Some people might list this as a negative point, but I think it's one of the most interesting things about him. Bruce Wayne/Batman is, deep down, kind of psycho. Witnessing his parent's death at such a young age and growing up with a perverse guilt that he was responsible for this tragedy has created a dark and fascinating aspect to this hero's personality. At the end of the day I think it's fantastic that as readers it's not always easy for us to tell who is the good guy and who is the bad guy in Batman stories.
5. My fifth and final point is that Bruce Wayne/Batman is brilliant. Yes he's strong, yes he has money, yes he has determination, but it's his brains that usually save him. Where Superman uses his superpowers, Batman uses his head. The moral of the story? Nobody can actually leap tall buildings in a single bound, so stay in school kids.

And there we have it, why Batman is a better superhero than Superman. Again I hope that this does not cause any serious rifts between me and my readers, and I also hope that I do not create painful clashes between family members or longtime friends over this issue. If any of these terrible things do occur, please forgive me but know that on this most vital of issues I felt that it was particularly important that I speak my mind.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Death to the Beast...

On the CBC's news website I came across this article by Rachel Giese about professional celebrity watcher Mario Lavandeira, aka Perez Hilton. You'll note that I haven't provided a link to Lavandeira's celebrity watching blog. If you want to go look around there, sacrificing your higher brain function on the altar of dumbass useless famous person gossip, be my guest, but I'm not willing to be an accomplice in the cold-blooded murder of your mind. This guy's job is actually commenting on the lives of people who are famous. This involves, to quote Giese, "just enough snarkiness to entertain bored cubicle drones and bitter stargazers, but not so much as to question the construction of celebrity itself."

Now, I feel that I can be legitimately condescending to stupidity like this, but the fact of the matter is that this kind of celebrity culture commentary exists because we let it. Lavandeira's website receives as many as 600,000 hits per day. He is clearly providing a commodity that the public wants to consume. Consequently my complaint is not really with him or his website (as incredibly stupid and insipid as it may be) complaint is with all of us who feed the beast from which parasites like Lavandeira in turn receive their sustenance.

I'm not ripping on people who have been captured by the celebrity-gossip monster. I've gotten sucked in by this nonsense myself, and a lot of truly good people who I genuinely like invest serious amounts of their time in the lives of famous people they've never met. Actually that's not really true, we don't invest ourselves in the lives of people we haven't met, we invest ourselves in characters invented by the modern media machine who have little if any resemblance to actual human beings. That being said I would like to make a proposal.

I propose that we stop caring about these virtual people called celebrities and start caring about ourselves and the actual people around us. How you say? Read a book, watch a good movie, learn to cook, buy a dog, go on a date, kiss someone you love, write a novel (even a bad one), go to school, go to Church (or maybe try going to synagogue this week), learn a language, visit a place you've never been (perhaps in the city in which you live), go have a beer with a friend, listen to music, make music, build short, live your own life. I think that if we all start learning to do this more something stunning will happen. We will come to realize that our real lives are actually far more interesting than the virtual lives of "famous people."

And maybe, just maybe, if we're really lucky, the beast and all of its parasitic hangers on will slowly but surely begin to die.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

On Nothing At All...

Sorry about the lax blogging lately. It's not that I've been away or busy or anything, I just haven't been inspired to write anything. I actually don't even have anything that I want to say now, but I thought "Hey, maybe I'll go type a post and see what comes out." ....hmmmm.....hmmmmmm.......well, this isn't working out to be nearly as creative and interesting as I thought it might.

Here's something. I was over at Doug's blog the other day (check him out on the sidebar) and ran across a post about the parable of the Good Samaritan. I have, over the last little while, begun to appreciate this parable as one of the stranger and more complex parables of the Gospels (though by no means the most...parable of the talents anyone?). We think that the PotGS is know, love your neighbor, show mercy, blah, blah, blah. This is, however, far from the truth. It's really a far more writerly parable than it appears at first glance (writerly=intentionally complicated, i.e. a work written to be deciphered by writers not just Roland Barthes).

The story of the PotGS begins with a scribe asking Jesus about the way to heaven (how's this for a typically human question..."Jesus, how is that I might save mine own ass using religion?") and Jesus' response is that the scribe must love God and his neighbor. "But who is my neighbor?" is the classic cop-out answer. Then comes the parable. We all know the story, so I won't paraphrase. At the end of the parable the Samaritan outsider is the hero of the story and has clearly shown mercy to the injured man. Then Jesus asks, "Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" (Lk. 10:36 NRSV). The scribe answers that it was "the one who showed him mercy" to which Jesus replies "Go and do likewise" (Lk. 10:37 NRSV).

The simplest, first level response is to read this as a story about being nice to people. But wait...what was the original question again? "Who is my neighbor?" "The one who showed him mercy." Does this mean that we are to love those who show us mercy?

But wait again! "The one who showed him mercy"..."go and do likewise." Does this mean we are to go and show mercy?

But wait again!! The Samaritan is a social, religious and political outsider, the quintessential Other. Does this mean we are to love the one we most want to hate?

I would argue that all of these readings (and perhaps many others) are completely legitimate and equally present in this text. It is far too tempting for us to fall into one-dimensional, simplistic readings of a given story. Though I don't think that the interpretive options for a given text are completely open-ended, which is to say infinite, I would argue that the number of legitimate interpretations is indeterminate. Though there are boundaries that we can set around meaning, boundaries that include syntax, context, semantics (though this one is rather complicated), even psychology, these boundary markers are (I think) set wider than many of us would be comfortable with. What most people, particularly most modernist Christians (both liberals and conservatives), want is a single, authoritative meaning. If you're one of those people I don't know what to tell you. Tough luck. At some point we all need to learn to live in the interpretive, hermeneutical joy of indeterminate meaning.

Or you could simply ignore me completely as the title for this post claims that I am writing about nothing at all.

Friday, June 16, 2006


G.K. Chesterson once said that "the world will not perish due to a lack of wonders, but only due to a lack of wonder." That quote always makes me think of my good friend Derek Selinger (there's a link to his website on the sidebar). Derek is, believe it or not, a professional magician. Jinny and I just checked out his show again tonight and, as always, it was wonder-filled.

I will never forget the first time that I saw Derek do magic. I was a freshman at Canadian Bible College and Derek was working there as the Dean of Men (he was just a hobby magician back then). Derek came in to the dorms one night to hang out and part of the schtick he used to get to know the guys better was to do card tricks. That night he only got part of the way through one trick. The reason for this is because...well it's because I'm kind of a nob. As he was progressing through the trick I piped up (the first words I ever said to the guy mind you) "Hey I know how you're doing that...." This would have been bad enough in and of itself, but I then proceeded to elaborate on precisely how it was that the trick worked. In my defense I didn't really mean to ruin the moment, I was just proud of myself for having worked out the puzzle. Derek looked at me for a second, dropped his cards in his magic case, closed the case up and walked straight out of the room.

The lesson that I learned that day was about politeness. It took me a couple more years and some great conversations with Derek to fully grasp the degree to which my attitude that night towards magic, and to some degree the world in general, was detrimental. I thought, as a great many people do, that magic tricks were puzzles and that knowing how the puzzle operates is the point. Now I realize that I never again want to know how the puzzle works. I don't want the illusion ruined for me because, though I know that the laws of physics dictate that gravity cannot really be defied and objects cannot really appear out of nowhere at all, the tricks themselves aren't what make Derek's art magic.

The magic of what Derek does occurs in the space between action and response, in that mystical domain where logic dares not tread and the imagination dances free-form, playing in between the categories and domains of our minds. This is the place where poetry flows from, where metaphor rules supreme and where the most critically minded person hopes before she doubts. Let me put it another way. This is where your smile comes from.

So, to Derek and Cicilia and all of you everywhere who dance instead of walking and sing instead of talking, thanks.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Just read my first real dose of Jaques Derrida. Ouch. Can't really feel my brain right now. I am happy to say, however, that I understood at least two whole paragraphs, as well as (I think) several disjointed sentences here and there (the article was roughly 15pgs long). For those of you who think that this is a poor showing I invite you to have a go at anything written by this father of deconstruction and postmodern thought. For those of you who have read some Derrida, my post title should give a hint concerning the content of the paragraph that I did understand. My brain is getting more and more nimble, yet paradoxically more and more tired with every passing day. I really need to find the core of this thesis so that I can start writing it soon. Well, on to Ricoeur (whose name I can't even spell right consistently). Cheers all.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Out Into the World...

Still reading The Name of the Rose, which really is a fabulous book. The main characters in the tale are Brothers William and Adso, a wise, insightful monk and his young apprentice (who also narrates the tale). I just finished up a chapter in which William and the abbot of the monastery in which our heroes are investigating a murder have been speaking about the political strife in the surrounding world and the evils taking place in the monastery itself. The chapter closes with a fascinating little exchange between William and Adso.

"Then we are living in a place abandoned by God, " I [Adso] said, disheartened.
"Have you found any places where God would have felt at home?" William asked me, looking down from his great height.
Then he sent me to rest. As I lay on my pallet, I concluded that my father should not have sent me out into the world, which was more complicated than I had thought. I was learning too many things.
(Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose. Translated by William Weaver; New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983: 155).

Adso's reflections resonate with me rather deeply some days. After two years of graduate level theological education I tend to liken my current level of reflection to swimming in very deep water. I feel that I am a strong swimmer, but at some point the only way to test your mettle is with the real thing. This means, of course, that you need to swim in water so deep that it is entirely likely that you might drown. That, I think, is the feeling Adso is communicating with his statement that he is "learning too many things." A person in our cultural milieu might respond that it is impossible to learn too much about anything for learning is an ethically neutral behavior. Adso knows that in reality things are otherwise.

All learning is the product of discourse, which is to say an exchange of thought between acting subjects. As post-structuralist, and in particular ideological, criticism tells us, all discourse is by nature rhetoric as well. There is no disinterested exchange precisely because an exchange requires subjects and subjects (as opposed to objects) cannot be disinterested (at least I don't think they can). When you learn you learn from a person with an agenda or through an experience that helps to shape your agenda. I am not implying that we are blank pages upon which the prejudices of our forbears are written in pristine ink. I would say that as learners we are as interested (that is to say prejudiced) as our teachers. The result of the learning process is an infinitely complex interchange between discourses in which nobody comes out unchanged.

Learning, the pursuit of knowledge, is an ethical activity and of this we must be aware. I'm not sure this awareness will save those of us foolish/brave/arrogant/passionate enough to plunge into waters that are so deep, but then, if we do drown, at least our demise will be our own damn fault. Be cautious, my friends, before venturing out into the world in search of that coveted thing called Truth. You may, like Adso (and me some days), come to the painful realization that you are learning too many things.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Mr. Darkside...

I've been a little negative lately (talking about death, calling people idiots, etc.) so let's try something a little out of character...positivity!

Chillin out in Elbow Valley for the next few days. Jin and I are housesitting/babysitting at my uncle's place. How is it that we're babysitting my cousins you ask? Well, my uncle Kel (Mom's brother) is the youngest in his family by a good deal and he got married a fair bit later in his life than my Mom. The result is that his son and daughter are still in grade school. That means that when my aunt and uncle go away, Jin and I get to hang out in their house (read here not "bungalow" but "3000 sq. ft. mansionesque home") and play with the kids. How is that being positive? Well, first of all I'm not being negative, but there's more...

I was just wandering about on other blogs/websites and ran across a post by my friend Erin at her site where she was reflecting on the beauty of nature, the joy of marriage and the grace of God. Very good stuff (though very old as well...for shame Erin, get updating). It made me think of the wonderfully beautiful landscape out here on the edge of Calgary, the amazingly refreshing rain today and the simple joy and grace that can be found in reflecting on God's creation.

So raise a glass of whatever it is you're drinking tonight and offer a silent prayer of thanks for grace, beauty and every opportunity we get to enjoy them both. Blessings.

**bonus points to the first to recognize the veiled pop-culture reference in the title**

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Apathy, Atrophy and the End of the World...

So I was really bored today. I had nothing planned, no work to do, no idea about how to spend my day. The reason for this is that I, like so many other Christians and biblical scholars, thought that the world was going to end yesterday. Come on, the calendar date was 666, how could that not signal the end of the world. So, here's to end of the world apathy...what the hell am I supposed to do with a day that I had planned to spend watching the last judgment?

I hate the American media. It's possible that I hate the Canadian media as well, but I don't remember seeing any nonsense about the end of the world or the Apocalypse (I will save my annoyance for the popular use of this word for another day) on any Canadian news outlets so I'm letting them off the hook for the day. To all of the American media outlets that carried any story, any story at all, about the world ending or the mark of the beast yesterday I have only one thing to say. Your brain is like a muscle, if you never use it, it will eventually atrophy and all you'll have left is a useless lump of crap between your ears. Idiots.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


How's that for a cheery post title? Watched a bit of The Return of the King today while I was eating lunch and then Jin and I rented Aeon Flux this evening. Death is a pretty notable theme in both films, though perhaps more a sub-theme in ROTK.

My favorite bit of both Tolkien's book and the movie adaptation is when Theoden and the Riders of Rohan charge the army laying siege to Minas Tirith (how is it even possible to talk about this story without sounding like a huge nerd?). As Theoden and his men charge into battle they cry "Death!". I love this scene. For some reason the idea of a group of courageous warriors charging towards certain death on principle alone really gets to me. Setting aside questions of the validity of war and the entirely legitimate postcolonial critiques of Tolkien's presentation of his villains, I think that there is something here concerning the nature of mortality that we need to remember. Tolkein is reminding us that there are worse things in the world than dying. Indeed death, under the right circumstances, is a noble thing.

Then there's Aeon Flux which was a good deal better than I expected it to be (granted my expectations were pretty low). What surprised me was the strong message concerning the importance of human mortality. The essential theme of the film was that as humans we need to die, otherwise our lives will lack both meaning and morality. Again, setting aside questions concerning the ultra-violent nature of such films, I think that this movie is making an important point. Death creates ultimate consequence which helps to challenge us to explore the meaning of our fleeting lives and to live in a way that honours that meaning.

This sentiment is also echoed in the Christian story. Death is not merely a punishment in the primeval history, it is also the means by which humanity is protected from eternal corruption. I have frequently heard Christian pastors claim that Christians will never die, but will merely shed this body and live on as spiritual beings in heaven. This ain't the way the story goes (at least as I read it). We all die. What Christianity promises is not simply immortality but a mortal life, death, and then resurrection unto eternal life (check out 1 Cor. 15).

Moral of the story: death is about good-ish? Okay death scares the hell out of me, but there's one good thing that it does. It keeps me (and all of us I think) honest. The fact that all of this is guaranteed to end reminds me that it's worth something in the first place. So, here's to's a sonofabitch, but it sure makes life worth living.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

New Toys...or Nerd Boy Strikes Again

Went out and got season five of The West Wing on DVD today. Seriously, is this not the best television program of all time? I'm stoked about the upcomming Sorkin drama Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip. Brad Whitford and Matt Perry with Tommy Schlamme directing and Aaron Sorkin could this be bad?

I also recently got some fun mail order stuff, and this is where I really start to sound like a nerd. My very own (non-electronic) copy of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia along with J.J. Collins' The Bible After Babel showed up a little while ago. I know what you're thinking, How could even a semi-serious student of the Hebrew Bible (and I hope I'm more than semi-serious by now) not have his own BHS until just recently? Well, I do have an electronic version that came with my Gramcord software (sans critical apparatus and Massorah) and there are a few copies at the seminary library that I've been using regularly. None of those are good excuses, but that's how life goes.

Next up on my shopping list is Theologies of Resistance in Daniel, the Apocalypse of Weeks, the Book of Dreams, and the Testament of Moses by Dr. Anathea Portier-Young. It took me a little while to find this particular dissertation, but it's on the way now. Woohoo!

Like I said...nerd.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Reading this week...

Here's what I'm reading this week. I'd ask my readers to respond with what they're reading, but I'm pretty sure I still don't have any readers (with the exception of Dougie, cheers buddy) so no worries.

Thesis reading:

Selections out of Critical Theory Since Plato by Hazard Adams. Today I skimmed through a bunch of stuff including Horace, Aquinas, Dante, Boccaccio and Vico (Plato and Aristotle were Tuesday). Tomorrow it looks like some Burke, Hume and if I'm lucky (or unlucky or whatever) I might get some Kant in. I love readers, you get all the original thought without the hassle of actually pounding through the entirety of A Critique of Pure Reason.

Personal reading:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I only knew of this story as a movie until just recently. I was looking around at Umberto Eco's stuff online (he's a major semiologist and literary theorist...I'm hoping he'll be able to help me out with the problem of delimiting meaning in interpretation) and I ran across this book on his website. Go figure. So I went out to the library (or libary for all you hicks out there) and picked it up. Only about 40 pgs in but it's great so far. If you don't feel like wading through 400 pgs of neo-classic murder mystery, try the movie on for size. I don't remember everything about it, but it stars Sean Connery and it was pretty good, though with some disturbing content. Nothing like a murder mystery involving monks and set in the 14th century ;).

The World That Was....

Two quick things via Dr. James Davila over at paleojudaica:

Dr. Joseph Cathey has started a new blog that will apparently be documenting the work at the Tel Gezer dig in Israel over the summer of 2006 - should be interesting so I'll also be adding it to my blog links on the sidebar.

Davila also mentions a short article about an old (though indeed by no means oldest) papyrus that is in the process of being deciphered thanks to some new technology. That's pretty cool, but what I wanted to note is a great little personal note Davila adds at the end of the post. I quote: "Bit by bit, a letter at a time, whatever it takes. Until we're done." Preach it brother. I think that a lot of people fail to understand the incredibly painstaking work involved in getting an ancient document from wherever it got left 2000 years ago to a bookshelf near you. For some reason I found this comment kind of encouraging and inspiring today...nothing like a long day reading ancient literary theory while trying to make some kind of sense of your thesis in your head to make you get a little twitchy.

Remember, this world is a product of the world that was.

Update: Somehow Dr. Davila found me all the way out here on the edge of cyperspace and read my little post. Check out his comment on it here. Well, for the encouragement yesterday and the ego-boost today...cheers to Jim Davila.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Good Books...

So I was wandering about on the internet looking at apocalyptic literature stuff and I ran across a quote in a Frontline article (follow the "apocalypticism" link) that made me wonder a bit. Prof. Paul Boyer of the University of Wisconsin, in reference to Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind books, wrote "They're very readable. They're very well written." Really? Is that so?

I recently had the...well I guess I'll say opportunity to read Dan Brown's best-seller The Da Vinci Code. This book is also apparently considered a good book - it sold a hell of a lot of copies at the very least.

Here's my question. If these are considered good books, what exactly is it that constitutes a bad book?

Update: I thought I was alone in my disdain not only for the content, but also for the presentation of The Da Vinci Code. It would appear that this is not the case...see here.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

On Underestimation...or Have a Little Faith

I just read a great post over at AKMA (see "No Popular Culture" from May 28/06) from which I'd like to quote briefly: "If the church were a more congenial ecology for learning and critical reflection, the 'popular culture' topos might bring to the surface more interesting issues...." On this estimation of the church's attitude towards learning I think Dr. Adams might be on to something (though I certainly don't think that this ethos has permeated the western church alone...but that's a post for another day). One of my concerns is that church leaders tend to underestimate both the level of interest and the potential for understanding in the average Christian person. It is too much to present complicated thoelogical problems or to investigate the greater political and ethical repercussions of our beliefs. All of this is looked on as "theological hair-splitting." This is unfortunate because in fact it is these issues that will determine the role of the church in both the world of today and of tomorrow. I would suggest that our understanding of God's will matters, that the way we think of God's relationship with the future matters, that a knowledge of what grace and faith might be matters greatly to our own engagement with the possibilities and problems of the world in which we live.

I realize that there will be many people in any given group of Christians (or people of any other faith for that matter) who have no interest in the intellectual component of their religion/faith system, but this does not mean that these will be the only kinds of people preset, nor that they will be in the majority (as though only the concerns of the majority mattered to church governance anyways...again, a post for another day). I would be stunned to discover that any given congregation of people did not have among them some for whom supposedly esoteric concerns are important and interesting. I am not advocating that we turn regular worship services into academic exercises, nor that we neglect teachings with practical ends in mind. I would only suggest that there are many times when attempting to teach only things that are "practically applicable" has the potential to create a faith that differs only insignificantly from many entirely non-christian approaches to the world (I'm not opposed to such systems out of principle, but in a church the aim is to be not of this world). Additionally I would say that a great many topics that might be seemingly arcane in fact have great practical implications for the living of the Christian life. I would agree with whoever it was that suggested we must let Scripture read us, setting the agenda for conversation (as much as such a thing is possible) and not the other way around (I'm not sure who it is that I'm [mis]quoting here, someone from the post-liberal vein, Lindbeck maybe).

I guess all that I'm saying is that we need to have a little faith. In people's interests, in their capacity and also in the importance that some slightly more complex issues might have on the nature and future of Christianity in the western world.

First Post...or On Books and Movies

So this past week I subjected myself to two new movies based on previous stories; in the case of one, X-Men 3, a comic book series and in the case of the other, The Da Vinci Code, a best-selling novel. Neither of them was all that great, but neither was terrible either. I was really looking forward to X-Men since I've always loved the comic book series and the first two films were great. The third installment, however, just didn't do it for me. Conversely I went into The Da Vinci Code expecting a boring and ridiculous story based on an incredibly bad novel. In this case I was...well I'm not going to say I was pleasantly surprised because it really wasn't a very good movie, but it did surpass the novel simply because it took less time. Now, though I could certainly spend some time beating up on The Da Vinci Code or even X-Men, this just doesn't seem like a particularly original thing to do with my first post. It also seems, especially in the case of DVC, like beating the hell out of the weakest kid on the playground just because I can. Instead I thought it might be interesting to present some ideas for books and stories that I've always wished would find their way onto the big screen.

First up how about I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. This book has actually been adapted into two different motion pictures, though neither was called I Am Legend and, according to wikipedia at least, neither was very good either. It turns out that someone figured that this one was worth another try because it is currently in pre-production, slated for release sometime in 2007. For those of you not familiar with this book, it's a great little novella about the last human being living in a world full of vampires. It has some wonderfully dark humour, lots of action, and the theme of the book is a fascinating exploration of Otherness (hey, vampires are people too!!).

Another book that I think would translate well to the big screen is Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell's Lucifer's Hammer. If you've never read the book and you're looking for something that will keep you turning pages, this is the book for you (though clearly not everyone loved this book, see here). It's basically about an asteroid that hits the Earth. I know what you're thinking...what about Armageddon and Deep Impact? Well in both of those films the asteroid misses the Earth. I assure you that Niven and Pournell's take is far more interesting. BTW this one was Jin's where credit is due.

Shifting gears out of Sci-fi I've always wanted to see a movie made from Tom Clancy's Without Remorse. If you're familiar with the Jack Ryan series this book occurs in the same timeline but is centred on the character who later comes to be known as John Clark. Once again, however, someone beat me to the punch. According to IMDb the movie is in pre-production and Joaquine Phoenix is rumored to be attached for the leading role. Excellent Smithers.