Monthly Archives: January 2007

Dissertation Distraction Project N+3

I had a great question in class last night (which is going well). We were discussing Chrysostom’s wonderful Easter sermon when one of the students, an intelligent well-read Baptist (over half my class is Baptist!!), raised his hand and asked, “Where exactly is it in Scripture that it talks about Jesus’ descent to the dead?”

It’s a great question and I was caught fairly unprepared so I took them to 1 Peter 3 to the discussion of Christ preaching to the “spirits in prison” which the Fathers took to mean hell particularly given the Enochian resonances of that whole 1 Peter chunk. Then I made reference to the Isaiah passage that connects Sheol and the gates of iron but I couldn’t remember where it was… I did take them next to Ps 107 to the section on the prisoners in gloom and deep darkness shattering the gates/bars and how this was read in line with the others. I thought about discussing the bit at the end of Job about the fishhook but decided to skip it. (I totally forgot about the typological reading of Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza which I just now remembered…) I know there are some more that anchor it better and mentioned a little bit about how the Gospel of Nicodemus sets it up.

All this is to say, this morning I saw a review of an Introduction to the NT for Catholics. One of the critiques is that the author glosses some of the disputed issues with a fairly perfunctory “this is what we believe” and goes on from there. It got me wondering, is there a text that looks at some of the locations where protestants and catholics disagree on Scripture or on doctrines that come out of Scriptures that lays out both sides evenly and equally? I’m sure there are some apologetic tracts on both sides denouncing the other—but what about one that seeks it with more of an open-minded approach? It seems to me that a catholic-leaning Anglican would be the perfect one to write such a book having a concern for the tradition and the integrity of the catholic teaching but also a certain freedom in the deployment of modern critical tools…

Some topics might be: the descent of Christ into hell; the perpetual virginity of the BVM; some general stuff on the BVM; purgatory. What else?   

Call for Papers

Well…sort of…


Raspberry Rabbit put up a post in reference to Lutherans asking the question why there’s been no talk of schism there. I answered by saying that there was talk—lots of it—right around the time of CCM. My own understanding is that the only reason that the Word Alone group didn’t leave the ELCA is because of a lack of funding.


I was, at the time, in a former ALC seminary and I know the majority of the folks there would have been happy to not be tied to CCM and the apostolic succession. I also remember wandering the halls of LutherSem on a visit and seeing the tracts and pamphlets posted around the place. The energy was there—but it didn’t happen. Do the current Lutherans out there know better than I—was it just a money issue or was there more to it? And—is there talk/speculation/documentation around that would back this suspicion up?

Public Service Announcement

The “World-Wide Web” is, in fact, world wide. When you post stuff, other people may well read it. There are some implications to this.


1. You may well be a seminarian and have taken an intro course in liturgy or  New Testament. That’s great. But, in your haste to show off your new-found knowledge remember that there are people who have taken a hell of a lot more courses and read a hell of a lot more sources in the original languages than you.


2. I’ve done a lot of work in my field. I have a BA, an MDiv, an STM, and am a few pesky chapters away from my PhD all focused in my area. This means that I’ve read so much that I have a really good idea of how much about my field I don’t know!! True depth of learning breeds humility.


3. Don’t assume anything simply because you’re going to be clergy. There are laity who have forgotten more about liturgy—and a host of other topics—than you will ever know. And not all of them have “Dr.” in front of their names, either.


4. If you make major factual errors, be prepared to be called on it and furthermore be willing to accept correction. See above on humility… If you don’t feel that way, that’s fine—either don’t post things publicly or prepared to be dismissed.

A Sermon from M

In response to some discussion at Canterbury Trail, I suppose we’re starting to put our money where are mouth is. bls contended that many of the younger generation tend to be more traditional in theology than the previous generation. To support her point Caelius posted some sermon bits specifically underscore the issue of atonement and cross.

Now, I know there are all sorts of anxieties about priests these days–especially the *women* ones. So–here’s a representantive example of such preaching–it’s M’s last sermon before she left her last call.

Gospel: Mark 9:30-37

Have you ever heard the expression: “He who dies with the most toys wins?”

I imagine it’s probably familiar to most of us. After all, toys are one of the most obvious ways that we can show people our worth, our value, our status. Believe it or not this isn’t a new concept. People have been jockeying for power ever since there have been people.

“He who dies with the most toys wins.”

Competition is part of the human spirit and our culture has not only elevated it, but exaggerated it.

“He who dies with the most toys wins.”

If you live according to this motto then life is, first of all, about competition—there are winners and losers and you’d better be a winner. Second, it means life is about stuff. Things. The motto doesn’t say “he who dies with the most friends wins”… It also doesn’t say: “He who dies the happiest wins.” No, it’s about things. Owning things, having things, keeping them from others. Today’s gospel today takes a different path.

Today’s gospel has something to say about this topic because it touches on some common themes. That is, it talks about dying—and it also talks about being first. But the conclusions that it comes to are wildly different. What does it mean to be first? What does it take to be number one? We certainly have our own ideas. The human greatness that our modern culture honors so much, envies, and tries to pursue—rank, wealth, power and recognition to name a few—can be attained, but it is bought at a very high price.

I recently read an article about a campus minister with Intervarsity at Stanford who, with the help of others, began a group specifically for faculty on campus. About a dozen or so professors would gather for breakfast every Friday morning for fellowship and conversation. The following year another group was started at the hospital on campus for medical faculty and physicians and several years after that a small group of physics professors began meeting with the same purpose in mind—food, Christian fellowship and conversation. The campus minister did not know whether his idea would flourish or be a complete flop, but over those several years more than 100 faculty members joined in. He wrote of those group meetings, “When we started most people did not know each other, so every Friday a different professor shared his or her Christian story. The very first Friday morning Doug disarmed everyone with a candid account of his disintegrating marriage. The following week Tony related his frustrations with raising teenagers. Another recounted his financial failures. In the succeeding months it became clear that these remarkably gifted people who had reached the pinnacle of professional success were more interested in sharing their lives rather than mere idea. The group took on a distinctly pastoral rather than an academic ethos. How do you balance personal and professional responsibilities? How do spouses negotiate dual careers with heavy demands?……Does God care about my neuroscience research? I still remember the morning that Chuck spoke for many of those exceptionally gifted and gracious professors when he noted with his trademark sardonic wit that ‘behind every great man there often lies a trail of human wreckage’”.

“…behind every great man there often lies a trail of human wreckage”.

These professors, some of the greatest minds in the country, who at a glance appeared to have everything, came together not to share ideas or current research, but to share their lives with each other- to share their brokenness. In their climb up the ladder to success they left many things behind. They neglected family and friends. They ignored co-workers and others doing whatever it took to get ahead and be on top. And when they finally reached their goal—you know what? It was empty and lonely. The type of greatness that the campus minister speaks of has a limited capacity to nourish human fulfillment. It may get us a lot of status. It may even win us a lot of toys. But it doesn’t protect us from human vulnerabilities and instead separates us from the people we love and who love us back. We may love our toys, but our toys won’t love us back.

“If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Jesus shows us a different way. Jesus shows us a way that turns its back on both his culture and ours and their expectations and measures of success.

“If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Servants then and now don’t have much in the way of status. Or power. Or toys. And yet Jesus points us to the way of service. He points us to a path of fulfillment that can only be achieved, not in isolation from others, but in direct contact with them. Jesus shows us a way of life that doesn’t cut off those who love us or see them as something that gets in the way. Instead the winners in Jesus’ game are the ones who love and go out of their way for those close to them—friends, spouses, and children.

This is the message that undermines what the culture teaches. This is the message that the world doesn’t want to hear. In fact, it would rather kill the messenger—and it did. This is a message that leads to the cross. But even there the world lost because in his dying Jesus demonstrates for those who walk in his steps what true love really looks like, a love that would give itself up for the redemption of the world.

It is interesting that Jesus chose a child as a sign of welcoming. We usually view children and babies as cute beings to be cuddled, rocked, and played with—as long as we have time to spare on that kind of thing. They are innocent and adorable creatures…and also the opposite of greatness. Society in the time of Jesus viewed children as ultimately insignificant because they lacked accomplishments, status, pretension, and power and were not considered wise.

And isn’t ours the same way?

And yet it is the children whom Jesus welcomes. Jesus is inviting each and every one of us to welcome all people regardless of status, or power, or wealth. Inviting the children means that the power, the status, and the toys mean precisely nothing. Jesus cares about none of it. To imitate children as Jesus commands is to see ourselves and others in the same manner, not as people whose significance lies in titles or honors, successes or failures, wealth or toys, but in the knowledge that we are human beings who God loves despite our brokenness and sinful nature.

God loves us just because he does—it’s who he is.

And it’s who Jesus invites us to be too.

Not for the Faint of Heart…

Ok, bls, the last quiz was too easy, huh? Try this one out…

I’ll warn you, it’s a quiz for high medievalists; a lot of the questions are a bit after my time-span. Just over 50% but I’m quite pleased with my showing…

Ye are 57% proficient in medievale trivia.


A fayre shewing. Ye are ful of much wisdam. Sans doute, ye rede a good deal of bokes concernynge the middel ages. Peraventure ye haue much oothir knowlech of straunge thinges as wel.

The Gret Quizz of Medievale Trivia
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Feelings on the Communion

Jake has a post up on stages of grief concerning the breakup of the Communion. I think it’s quite appropriate to think about it in those terms. One of the things that keeps coming to me as this whole thing proceeds is the odd realization that I’ll probably be the new “conservative” wing of TEC…

Post on Salvation and Baptism Coming

Following some comments at Joe’s place I fully intend to write up a full post on salvation and Baptism in reference to a question from obadiahslope. So far I have had neither the time nor the brain cycles to do so.


I still don’t.


So, my really short answer to his question—is baptism necessary for salvation—is “Yes”. …but there’s more to it than that. And I’ll write about it in a bit…

Invitation for Fellowships

I just received an invitation to apply for yet another fellowship for advanced graduate students. It sounds worthwhile and all but—NO!!


Why, you ask? ‘Cause I don’t make crap in my current day-job—certainly not enough to feed my family of four…and the fellowship would pay exactly HALF of what I’m making now.


What are these people smoking?

Procrastination, Pt. 2

H/t Anastasia…

You know the Bible 100%!


Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses – you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
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Actually, number 40 on the test is wrong… It’s the question about the length of the flood and if asked on the street most people would get it wrong… The Scriptures make a clear distinction between the number of days and nights that it rained and the time it took for the flood waters to subside from the earth. The author of the quiz expects the first but actually asks for the second…