On Sin and Gen 3-4

This started out as a comment on Caelius’s site but it mushroomed into a full-scale post so I’m putting it here. Check out his post on original sin and his response to my query for the background.

Okay–on the LXX (the Greek translation of the OT done in 2nd cent. BC Alexandria and used widely by the early church): the midrashic tradition from which it proceeds functions by beginning with God’s initial displeasure. That is, it returns to the question of why God accepted Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. Interpreters of the time suggested that Cain’s offering was rejected because he kept the good stuff for himself and offered up the bad stuff or committed some other sort of irregularity in the offering procedure. Thus, the division language has to do with what parts of the offering Cain assigned to himself and what he assigned to God. In this view, therefore, bad liturgy *is* responsible for the world’s first murder…

There is no doubt that the Masoretic (received Hebrew) text is corrupt here and this is one of the cases where the LXX is no help at all. This is most likely because of the anthropomorphized portrayal of sin–generally speaking, the LXX didn’t like anthropomorphizing in any way that could possibly suggest a multiplicity of gods and would gloss over it or retranslate it in a more monotheistic way. I don’t have the JPS version around–I’d love to see how they deal with it.

One of the reconstructions that I have heard takes sin lurking at the door (lie as in “lie in wait…”) and that the attraction between sin and man is the same as that between woman and man. The question then remains how to best configure the ruling verb. An Indo-European language itches to put it into the subjunctive and/or future and the differing treatments of the verb in the English versions reflect the different subjunctive options—especially choosing between an optative (may/might/be able), jussive (shall), or imperative (must) force. Jerome uses the future dominaberis suggesting either a simple future or a jussive. The kicker, of course, is that Hebrew doesn’t have a subjunctive; it doesn’t conceptualize time and probability that way with reference to verbs (and I haven’t used my Hebrew in so long that I shouldn’t try to identify the form without a reference work close at hand… If I had to guess it looks like qal imperfect which can have a future sense.).

So, to round out the translation issues, it seems fitting that Gen 3:16 and 4:7 ought to be translated in strict parallel. That is, the conjunctions ought to agree and the choice of the verb mood ought to agree. Note that my favorite whipping boy, the NRSV, fails miserably on this count by offering both a different conjunction and different moods. So which conjunction? How do the two statements about desire and ruling relate to one another? Should they be joined with an “and” or a “but”? Hebrew does not differentiate; both are viable options. I lean toward “but”, myself as it complicates things. :-) [Note here a classic example of the difficulty of the plain-sense reading—either choice is grammatically and logically possible…] Now, which verb? Given the overall tenor of 3:14-19, a simple future/jussive is the most logical. However, is this the most natural reading—the plain-sense—for 4:7? It does seem a bit more conditional despite the formal parallelism. Could the NRSV actually be right (for a change)?

Exegetically where does this get us? Well, there’s no doubt that there is a parallel construction in the Hebrew text between woman and sin. It’s not one that I especially like but we would be remiss in not identifying it and working with it to see what the exegetical options are. Eve has a lust for Adam but his calling is to rule over her. Sin has a lust for Cain but his calling is to rule over it. Chapter 3 suggests that these pronouncements should be read as generalities. Ergo, women or wives have a lust for their husbands but their calling is to rule over them; sin has a lust for men/husbands but their calling is to rule over it. [And yes, it’s most definitely “rule”–the verb is mshl, the same verb used in Gen 1 to talk about the sun and moon ruling over the day & night, etc. from whence cometh interesting but way off topic issues on rabbinic astrology…] So, are wives and sin to be conflated? I’m sure many patristic authors probably thought so. I don’t, of course. Furthermore, I think this connection is a direct contradiction of Gen 2:18-25. Husbands and wives—the two-person affection unit—is constructed for mutual support and assistance. They are to help one another. Sin does not and cannot do this. Sin cannot be conflated with the wife. Thus, another model is needed.

The model that emerges is the man in tension. On one side is his wife who lusts for him. On the other is sin, also lusting for him. Is his job to master them or to master himself in regard to them? Choosing the one and putting away the other; cleaving to one, rejecting the advances of the other. In fact, this construction parallels a great deal of the rhetoric of wisdom literature. If we personify our mapping a little more, the man stands pulled between his wife and the “other woman.” Proverbs goes into great detail personifying wisdom as the wise woman, the effective householder, the canny and competent wife. Folly is personified as the adulteress, the loose woman, the “other woman.”

Now, how do we interpret this text and make meaning of it for us. We don’t live in an officially patriarchal culture so some rereading and reconstructing must be done. (I suspect one of the reasons why so many of these texts were so patriarchal is because the women didn’t read and didn’t particularly care what was written. Obviously, neither is true today.) The way that I read it is that lust is the essential paradigm for sin. (Please note that this is totally different from saying that lust is original sin.) Just as two lovers feel lust—a passionate, non-rational desire for one another—so sin and humanity have a similar relationship. Classically sin in general and original sin in particular have been discussed as a thing towards which humans have an innate proclivity. What I find so interesting in this text is that it suggests that it’s a two-way street: sin personified has a proclivity for humanity as well—it’s an active thing that plays upon our desires, tempting and seducing us, not an inanimate thing to which we are drawn. As humans striving to be faithful we must master our own lusts and direct them to the appropriate object of our desire, the partner and helper with whom we become one. Furthermore, my reading of the paradigm would suggest that receiving help from the partner is an addition to mastering sin itself. Of course, in the background of all discussions of partners and helpers is the relationship between the soul and God of which the partner-relationship is a shadow.

There’s more here and this deserves more work but this is where it’s at for the moment.

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Fitts and Starts

Mea Culpa [whack] You know the drill…
I am heartily sorry for these my misdoings–especially those things left undone. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent. Yes, my new boss let us out early on Friday (yay!) and thus no random wacky Friday quiz. A big thanks to lutherpunk for picking up my slack

btw–I’m Hades.

Dissecting Blame
Oh my, folks are just get started with the finger-pointing… That’s another sordid feature of disasters like these–people who know absolutely nothing about the situation spout off all sorts of verbal diarrhea about what wasn’t done, what was done, what was done half-heartedly and especially who’s to blame. Never one to sit by when an interesting conversation is going on–I thought I’d add my own uninformed drivel to the pile… [And just as a note, I haven’t been following the blame game so I’m spouting off on the top of my head here…It’ll be interesting to see which major faction my drivel sounds like. :-D]

Two words: States’ Rights. If you’ve ever spent time in the South, you know how important those words are to Southerners. After all, (just ask ’em) the War Between the States wasn’t about slaves, racism, etc.; it was about States’ Rights. The power of the Old Democrat party (i.e., pre-LBJ) in the South was about…States’ Rights. In a political system like ours there is an inevitable and I would argue necessary tension between Federalism and national responsibilities as opposed to States’ Rights and local responsibilities. Although Federalism essentially prevailed in the US, there’s still quite a bit of power at the other levels and the existence of Congress–both houses–is constructed to inject local politics into the Federal level.

All that having been said, I think Bush’s response sucked. It was really bad. But the scope of the disaster was not fundamentally his responsibility. That is, he acted as a poor leader in this time of crisis, but I do not blame him for the crisis. I think that there are two major failures here and lessons to be learned.

First, I see this as a failure at the state and local levels. They were the people who lived there–they knew what needed to be done. It’s not as if Louisiana has no Congress-dudes [that’s the correct gender-neutral form, fyi] to lobby for money for construction projects. This is a problem that can and should have been corrected a while ago. Furthermore, the local leadership–didn’t. The inevitable comparison does kinda make this apt. In New York, things held together; in New Orleans, they didn’t. There are a host of factors and differences between the two especially the breakdown in communications (such a shame that disaster crews don’t have *satellite* phones that can’t get knocked out if cell towers go down…) but Rudi was there, was visible, and held things together until more help could arrive. Who was there in New Orleans? Who took control? Who could people look to as a voice of authority who was willing to speak the truth to the people and inspire them in the face of tragedy? From my dry armchair it appears that superior leadership produced superior results.

Second, I really worry about what has happened to the homeland defense moneys allocated after Setpember 11. Let’s face it, with the amount of money parcelled out there ought to have been plans in place. New Orleans should have been thinking about what to do if terrorists went after the levees in addition to hurricanes. Supposedly they ran a drill not to long ago. What gives? Makes you wonder how that money was spent…To put a finer point on it, I sure hope that the officials in my area know what the hell they’re supposed to do in case of emergency. And I hope that they clue us in too…

Dissertation Progress
I got a hold of this History of OE Lit over the weekend. Good stuff. Lots of good bibliography in there to shore up parts I feel weakest in. One of the epiphanies is the realization of just how much of the OE corpus was designed to be fundamentally oral. From to poems to the sermons, I’d say the vast majority of it was oral literature rather than written. I wonder what that means…

And (a) Justice for All [a great album too, btw!]
Rehnquist. Oh boy. Yes, this sure is a liberal’s worst nightmare–W gets to pick two justices… As I thought before, though, I think that the court is too aware of its own importance to really run amok in one direction or another. I believe (and truly hope) that no matter who gets put on it that the court will shuffle itself in order to remain centrist.

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What are you doing to reduce Fossil Fuel Use?

Let me preface this by admitting that, yes, I’m one of few Anglicans I know who votes Republican. Not always–but often. I believe that a strong corporate sector is a benefit to society as a whole. Remember, corporate America isn’t just a horde of faceless automatons powered by greed, it’s the way that we create and maintain a decent standard of living for the majority–though not all, of course–of Americans. Corporations do need to be called to account and the best way to do it is with our checkbooks, not legislation. Or at least a judicious blend. Certainly legislation alone is not the answer. No, we have to think about what we buy and how we spend our money and also to be vocal about our spending choices.

That having been said, what are you doing now to reduce your use of fossil fuels? The loss of life in New Orleans and the cultural losses in and around that city are dire; these should be our foremost and immediate concerns. There may well be a long-term warning here too (in addition to lessons about building below sea level…). Another thing that this emergency is doing is demonstrating once again American over-dependence upon fossil fuels. The most obvious sign is the dramatic and drastic rise in the price of gas. I hate to see what heating is going to be like this winter. Part of this is due to the refineries in the Deep South, the importance of NO as an oil port, and also the destruction of oil rigs in the gulf. Another significant factor is fear–the oil companies and others know that we know this and can play on our fear.

Some of the academic bloggers have been recently writing quite a bit about the notion of peak oil and the current energy situation. Yes, I still call it a situation rather than a crisis because I don’t think it is at a crisis point yet. But neither should we be actively helping it reach the crisis point. So…what are you doing about it?

Now, the answer to this problem does not solely with Detroit/Tokyo/Seoul or with the way we use our cars although this is obviously a big part of the equation. But how about your lighting? How does that electricity get made after all? And what is that material that your fingers are on right now and that surrounds your monitor? Hmmm, plastic isn’t it…Ya know, that stuff really doesn’t grow on trees…

Naturally, I’m not asking this because I *have* an answer. But it is something that we seriously need to think about. What can we do and what are we doing?

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New Orleans

I can’t say anything more that has not already been said; others have covered events far better than I am capable of doing. Nevertheless, here’s a link and a prayer:

O God, whose fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts of the earth: We humbly beseech thee graciously to behold and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, drawing nearer to thee, may be bound together by thy love in the communion of thy Holy Spirit, and in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Anglo-Saxon Monastic Education

I’ve been reading a lot of material on early medieval monastic education to prepare for writing chapter 2. It’s interesting stuff and all, but I keep getting the sense that many of the scholars are dropping the ball on an important point. The chief writings in view are Godden’s great article on glossed texts, the big book on Priscian’s Excerptiones, the Colloquies of Ælfric and Ælfric Bata (the shorter, rowdier, and generally more drunken student of the first), and Gretch’s work on the intellectual inheritance of the Benedictine Reform which goes a long way to suggest that Æðelwold was the author of the Vespasian Psalter glosses.

Conventional wisdom is that little Anglo-Saxon oblates and novices learned Latin by means of memorizing colloquies (a process that involves being beaten on a regular basis it seems) and working through a text like Ælfric’s Grammar which is essentially an English edition of the Priscian abridgement. The problem is that these things—the colloquies and Grammar—seem far more like intermediate studies than basic ones. They didn’t start with these works. Clear evidence for this is in the preface to Æflric’s Grammar where it is assumed that the students have read Donatus (unless I’m translating that wrong—which is possible). The other issue here is that nobody seems to be mentioning the elephant in the middle of the room. Or, because they’re scholars, they’re so busy checking out the floorboards they completely missed the elephant: the Psalms.

These little monklings are singing all 150 every week. This is how basic language acquisition is happening. Because of the Divine Offices they’re committing huge amounts of Latin to memory. They have no idea what it means, of course, but it puts huge swathes of vocabulary and grammar examples into their heads to be mined at a basic level of education. Am I missing something here? Surely this has been mentioned somewhere in this literature…

Other thing: Three of the standard texts used as school books (pace Godden) are Arator, Juvencus, and Sedilius. That is, a paraphrase of Acts and two of the Gospels/story of Jesus. I wonder what practical effect this had on hermeneutics? I’m guessing essentially none; these served more to reinforce the narratives that should already have been in their heads and to give them a better sense of Latin styling. Exegetically I don’t think they gave them anything hermeneutically more than reinforcing the notion of the story of Christ and the Early Church as an epic.

Update: Wanna hear something off the hook? I just tallied it up–with the additions from the Regularis Concordia–the monastic customary written by Bishops Æðelwold and Dunstan to supplement and guide the impementation of Benedict’s Rule–there were 35 psalms that were read at least once a day. Add further that each of the 7 penetential psalms were sung at least four times a day with Psalm 51 being sung 8 times! That’s 28% of the Psalter that was sung every single day. How’s that for repetition!?!

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Reproducible Clergy Wanted Ad

Sarah Dylan Breuer left a good follow-up comment down on the previous post about pressures the *other way* in looking for a clergy job. Fundamentally, it comes down to expectations. Parishes have them and they want their clergy to meet them no matter how contradictory they are… In light of that reality, I’ve decided to relieve vestries, call committees, and others of part of the burdensome process of writing a clergy wanted ad. I’ve helpfully done it for them, all they need to do is cut and paste.

Qualifications to be a Priest/Pastor/Minister [choose one] at [your church name here]

[Church name here] is a loving, inclusive parish who offers a warm and hearty welcome to all people who come through our doors! And are just like us.

We are seeking a clergy person. We aren’t picky and will take anyone who loves the Lord and the people of God. Here are a few necessary qualifications.

The applicant as a family person:

  • We accept both male and female applicants for this position.
  • If you are a woman you shouldn’t look too…”feminist.” You know what we mean.
  • Applicant should be married and have strong “family values”.
  • Should have a successful, caring, supportive spouse who is used to not seeing their partner for weeks at a time and has no problem with this.
  • Should have a strong family life. Seven to ten perfectly behaved children preferable. At least six should be the couple’s biological children.
  • One should be a baby who never cries or makes noises unless the altar guild ladies think it’s an appropriate time to be “cute”.
  • It would be cool if one was an orphan adopted from Somalia and the family went over and rescued the poor child in a harrowing escapade of heroism that could be told whenever the Baptist down the street brags about his mission trip to Mexico.
  • This heroic escapade was accomplished while only taking off one day. In the middle of the week.
  • In short—be kinda like that guy on “Seventh Heaven” but without the drama. ‘Cause this isn’t a sit com, you know.

The applicant’s finances/class:

  • Should be independently wealthy and should feel that it’s totally unreasonable for the parish to have to pay for benefits.
  • Should come from a decent middle-class family–maybe a “Everybody Loves Raymond” kind of family–so nobody feels wierd around them.
  • Should know which fork to use, special French phrases to use at certain events, and know what sort of wine pairs with everything from oysters-on-the-half-shell to hotdish.
  • Should exhibit a preferential option for the poor as commanded by the Gospel.
  • Shouldn’t make awkward suggestions about how parishioners choose to spend their money.
  • Should be a snappy dresser and have a nice house suitable for entertaining.
  • But nothing you own really ought to be nicer than what parishioners have because, hey, we’re paying you (when the checks clear) to pray–not to buy fancy things.

The applicant’s experience:

  • Should have at least one academic degree above the MDiv. Everybody else’s minister has an MDiv—we deserve something a bit more.
  • Should have a minimum of 10 years in the non-profit development field to take some heat of the Stewardship committee.
  • Should have about 10 years in corporate management to know how to run the church properly and to be able to relate to the office-worker types in the congregation.
  • Should have a few years’ experience as a factory or migrant worker. This is desirable to earn credibility with the blue-collar folks in the parish and with liberals who think it’s cool and who often thought about doing just that but haven’t gotten around to it yet.
  • Should be between 27 and 33 years of age and still have loads of fresh new insights.
  • But shouldn’t dress like those punk kids do. Tattoos and body piercings are right out.
  • Unless those punk kids think that kind of thing is cool and will come on Sundays both washed and groomed.
  • And speaking of those punk kids, the applicant should have sufficient experience with youth to be able to explain how free love and psychotropic drug use was really cool when the youth’s parents did it and reinforce that the youth’s parents are still hip and cool but communicate clearly that such things are no longer cool and should not be done, period.

The applicant’s ministry skills:

  • Liturgically, should be open to and competent in a wide range of worship styles.
  • Should be able to execute on five minutes’ notice (when *that* set of relatives is in town) a full-on solemn high mass properly including skillful use of the censer (using a non-allergenic, non-offensive incense that certainly shouldn’t affect anyone’s asthma but have a great scent. Maybe something like fabric softener.), chanting a gospel while correctly pointing it on the fly, and an amazing ability to wear gorgeous vestments that match both the liturgical season and the flowers on the altar. Should also have personally assured that all vestments, linens, and acolytes are properly and crisply ironed.
  • Should not be overly nit-picky or uptight about liturgical matters.
  • Should be able to sense when Evangelical friends critical of “mainline Protestant” worship are in the sanctuary and execute a perfect low mass, preaching a fiery thirty minute sermon that convicts all present of their sin while making them feel really good about themselves and accompanying one of the hymns on guitar and harmonica.
  • All services will be exactly 55 minutes so that parishioners can beat the Baptists to the restraunts
  • Should spend at least 20 hours a week in personal and hospital visitation.
  • Should spend at least 20 hours a week preparing thoughtful sermons.
  • Should spend at least 20 hours a week in thoughtful reflection for a new inspirational book or something like that Rick Warren guy so we can brag about going to your church at cocktail parties.
  • Should spend at least 20 hours a week in bold and open acts of evangelism and faith-sharing to grow the church rapidly.
  • But not evangelism in that tacky way.
  • Should have a robust personal prayer life.
  • Should be attendant upon family or personal emergencies at any hour of the day or night within 5 minutes of receiving the call in immaculate clergy dress with appropriate pastoral composure.
  • Should have several Bible studies at times that are convenient for me. Not that I’m *going* to come but I certainly ought to be able to come if I want.
  • Should have a strong stance on and be willing to speak out strongly on “family values.” And use that phrase the way *I* do—not like those other people, especially that one group in the congregation (you know who I mean).
  • Should be open, inclusive, and tolerant.
  • Should not associate with the wrong kind of people.

    [page turn…]

Warning: I am updating this occasionally as I realize I’ve forgotten things…

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Official News Bulletin…and a Rant

As those of you who read lutherpunk know, we have recently found out that we are expecting our second child. I am thrilled about this. I love being a daddy; now that Lil’ G is a toddler it’ll be nice to have a baby around again too.

I find that the excitement is a little bit subdued on the second go-‘round. The novelty factor isn’t there. Before Lil’ G was born, M and I scoured the stores, read a tall stack of baby books cover to cover, got our hands on most of the pregnancy magazines out there and were seriously—maybe overly—informed. Now, we’ve been through it before. Much of the mystery and attendant anxiety is gone. We’re not expecting this to be a major shake-up of our life and ways of being—Lil’ G already shook things up. While this little one will be an important and precious addition to the family—the major shift has already happened.

The other reason that the excitement is subdued is because the pregnancy—though not the baby(?)—will probably make our current precarious situation even more so. As regular readers know, I’m temporarily living in the City, pulling down a paycheck while M and Lil’ G live in Philly with her parents as she looks for a job. “Temporarily” has now stretched through the summer…and it’s not been easy for any of us being separated.

The primary reason is that the job market sucks. There just aren’t many jobs out there to be had for associates. Rectors, yes, but not associates. Those who are looking for associates want people with years of experience. As a young person who obediently followed God’s call to the ministry from college, M stands to dedicate a good 30+ years of her life to the church. Furthermore, she’s got not one but two degrees from good schools and—more importantly—knows how to take the academic stuff and translate it into practical ministry. We keep hearing how churches want to bring in Gen-X and –Y folk and how we all wish there were more young people in ministry. Apparently they’re wanted—just not here (wherever it is that *here* happens to be). The people hired instead are the second-career people. I know many of them, I’ve taught many of them, I know their strengths and weaknesses as a group better than most. If I were a rector and I wanted to bring in young people with families, I would think that I would want some one of that same age and situation. Clearly I’m not a rector or vestry member in this area.

I fear that M’s pregnancy will hurt her currently slim chances for employment because after however many years—let’s just say “after one generation”—the Episcopal Church and other mainline denominations are not interested in ordaining women. Hold on—let me clarify and make plain *exactly* what I mean by that.

I know people who don’t believe in the ordination of women. Some of these people are very good, close friends of ours; some of them read this site. Most of these friends—if not all—support M in what she does even if they wouldn’t receive the sacrament from her. That’s fine. I have no problem with that—I don’t agree, obviously—but it’s not a huge problem for me. You are where you are on these things.

Individuals aside, there are organizations, church bodies, that don’t believe in the ordination of women (SBC, PCA, RCC, etc.) Okay, great. Most of them take this position because of hermeneutical choices that they have made. As groups, that’s their decision. I’m not willing to say in a blanket fashion that they’re wrong and I’m right—I don’t believe I have that much certainty. I would certainly ask if they’re sure it’s a hermeneutical decision and not just culture masquerading as hermeneutics (I’m sure they wonder the same about me). I just ask that they be consistent with their hermeneutics; if you’re reading one text this way for a certain reason, you’d darn well better be reading *all* of the text that way or the “hypocrite” word may start getting exercised. The thing is—we don’t belong to one of these organizations. Therefore, what they think on the matter has absolutely no bearing on our situation. So where do we belong?

We belong to one of the churches that says it ordains women. In this particular category I’m thinking about the mainline Protestant groups who are easily identified as the ones who put out knee-jerk political statements; if the Right says it they hate it, if the Left says it they love it. Those folks. They say that they ordain women and like to call it a “justice issue.” Hmmm. Then do they act justly with regard to it?

Last time M was down to met with the folk in the diocese where we’re canonically resident to prepare for her diaconal ordination, another comrade went down too. He was a guy. His wife was pregnant. I think they may have given him a word of congratulations; other than that it wasn’t mentioned at all. M—this was a while ago, now, she wasn’t pregnant at all nor were we thinking about it—M got grilled for at least 20 minutes solid about what would happen *if* she might get pregnant She was muchly warned against it. The board expressed themselves quite…thoroughly. I think the upshot of was that she had to get the bishop’s permission before she decided to get pregnant again.

Now that she is pregnant (and without the bishop’s permission no less[!!]) I can see churches being far more willing to use the “experience” card or the “not a good fit” card at the beginning of the application process. Why? Because she may be out of work for six to eight weeks in her first year. Tell me, is this a good reason not to hire somebody?

The thing that pisses me off the most is that this church is one of the ones that proclaims so vehemently that it ordains women—but it really doesn’t want to. It doesn’t want to ordain women unless they’re willing to act like men. As long as you function like a man with breasts they’ll take you. But if you’re a woman of child-bearing years and…bear children…suddenly they want nothing to do with you. It’d be one thing if this were a secular job that involved daily exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals….but it’s not. It’s supposed to be about ministry. It’s supposed to be the church. The one that cares about justice. But they’ll make a big to-do about justice as long as it means they don’t have to get off their asses and actually live up to their fine words.

Maybe other women in the Episcopal Church and other churches don’t have this problem. Maybe I’m way off base. I don’t think so, though. To my mind this is cultural capitulation just as corrosive to the Gospel as other forms. It means that we as a church are still buying into the society that likes to sell with sex than kill the consequences. We have bought into the model—not that we’re men and women with complementary gifts, skills, and dispositions, each having something to say in the proclamation of the whole Gospel—but the model of androgynous clock-punching drones whose purpose in life is to produce and consume. In case anyone’s keeping score, yeah, I blame both the Left and the Right for their own “gifts” to this pathetic sub-human model of existence. Women’s Lib allowed middle-class white women to go to work—and to add a full day of work onto the rest of their domestic chores that middle-class white men haven’t suddenly started doing. By the same token, Corporate America’s labor-units model certainly doesn’t help. Folks, the Gospel has a strong word against this kind of culture. Where is it? Where did we loose it behind fancy talk about divestment and justice that gets really nebulous on specifics and the like? What’s the word from God on these things and why isn’t the Church reading and proclaiming it?

Part of the reason why the Church can take the stance that it has against pregnancy and against children is because, quite simply, the men haven’t been stepping up. We as guys—as daddies—haven’t been claiming our own rights to take our paternity leave and spend quality time with our new-borns. We haven’t let the Church—and other employers—know that we’re not gonna put up with this model. Yeah, there really are “family values” implications to the Gospel and I’m not talking about hating queer folk. Will this mean that employers might start seeing*any* person of child-bearing age as a potential “pregnancy liability”? Maybe. But so be it. We’re not called for the purpose of making our lives easier…

As you’ve probably figured out, part of the source of this post is my frustration with our continuing situation. But that source doesn’t invalidate anything I’m saying here. We’ve been blessed with another little one. That’s what ought to be at the forefront here. But life is never simple. It’s the complexities and turbulences that make you realize that you have to have a rock somewhere. We do have a Rock…but it’s also the Church’s job to proclaim that Rock. May it not be said of us “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”

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The Blogger Personality/Politics Quizzes

In respose to lutherpunk’s tap, I went ahead and took the tests. Interesting results…

– – – – – – – – –

Overview: This post is a community experiment with two broad purposes. The first is to create publicly accessible data about bloggers’ personalities, which may have sociological value in addition to being just plain fun. The second is to track the propagation of this meme through blogspace. Full details and explanation can be found on the original posting:

Instructions (to join in the experiment)

1) Take the IPIP-NEO personality test and the Political Compass quiz, if you have not done so already.

2) Copy to the clipboard that section of this post that is between the double lines, and paste it into your blog editor. (Blogger users may wish to use ‘compose’ mode to preserve formatting and hyperlinks. Otherwise, be sure to add hyperlinks as necessary.)

3) Replace the answers in the “survey” section below with your own.

4) Add your blog information to the “track list”, in the form: “Linked title – URL – optional GUID”.

5) Any additional comments should go outside of the double lines, including the (optional) nomination of bloggers you wish to pass this experimental meme on to.

6) Post it to your blog!


Age: 31
Gender: Male
Location: NY, NY, USA
Religion: Christian (Anglican)
Occupation: Religion
Began blogging: (dd/mm/yy): 6/15/05

Political Compass results:

Left/Right: -1.13
Libertarian/Authoritarian: -0.72

IPIP-NEO results:


Track List:

1. Philosophy, et cetera – pixnaps.blogspot.com – pixnaps97a2
2. Parableman – parablemania.ektopos.com – p8r8bl9m8n18
3. Rebecca Writes – everydaymusings.blogspot.com
4. Ales Rarus – alesrarus.funkydung.com – ales2112avis
5. Here I Stand – exiledcatholic.blogspot.com – exiled323catholic
6. Bending the Rule – regula.blogspot.com – regulabenedicti
7. lutherpunk – lutherpunk.blogspot.com – lutherpunk
8. haligweorc – haligweorc.blogspot.com – derek

– – – – – – – – – –

The extrovert/introvert question is always a difficult one for me. I am often out-going and have a high energy level (always in motion); I consistently classify myself as an introvert, though, because that’s what I have to have to recharge. I spend hours with the computer or a novel to maintain that level of energy.

Agreeableness. Let’s just say my trust and modesty pulled this one down–a lot. On the plus side, I’m rarely disappointed in people. I always expect the worst of them, thus I can only be pleasantly surprised…

Concientiousness would have been higher but I scored the lowest possible on orderliness. Hmmm. Well, it’s true.

Openness to experience, emotionality and liberalism pulled it down–otherwise pretty high across the board.

Politics-wise, I’m a little bit surprised that I scored as liberal as I did. I note that I scored pretty much in the middle on both, but I think I’m actually a bit right of center than left on the economic scale. There were several questions on this one that I didn’t like. I thought they were worded in an imprecise fashion.

Oh well… As for nominations for others, I’m gonna have to tap:
1. Anastasia
2. Caelius
3. King Alfred
4. Dave Allen Grady (Birthday Boy!)

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On Common Prayer

Praying and Thinking
Our particular corner of the Anglo-Lutheran blogosphere has been in a mood on things liturgical over the past few days. *Christopher put up an expansive post responding to my request for thoughts on a certain parish practices. The locals with Lutheran connections have mentioned the whole RW (“Revolting Worship” as LutherPunk so delicately puts it). In the background, of course, the furor in the Anglican Communion is punctuated by the ELCA Church-wide Assembly which faces similar issues and will conclude with nothing concluded. In response, I’m feeling the need to say something about the prayer book as the central—functional—instrument of unity.

The prayer book is at the heart of Anglican practice. The Benedictine tradition from which it arose understands liturgy as a rhythm of ordering Scripture; the prayer book participates within this tradition, always pointing to the Gospel of Christ as he is revealed in the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread. In all of our discussions, speaking collectively, I have been amazed at how much theology talk there is, how much polemic there, and how little appeal is made to the BCP.

Pray Long and Prosper…

As *Christopher notes in his post, Prosper of Aquitaine’s words have gained much currency since Vatican II albeit in an imperfect form. The way in which most know them, lex orandi, lex credendi is rather imprecise. This statement is simply two noun phrases put into juxtaposition—what is the relationship between them? Is it purposely being left fuzzy? *Christopher properly gives us Prosper’s original phrase: Ut legem credendi lex statuat supplicandi. Much more useful—but still imprecise. We need the rest of the sentence (Embarrassingly, I don’t have it. What’s the citation for this quote anyway?? This seems like the kind of thing I ought to know…). In any case, the clause cannot be translated with certainty because of a lack of context. Latinists will note the initial “Ut” and the “a” hiding in the ending of “statuat” and will recognize it as a subjunctive—but which one? Is it an optative: May the law of praying establish the law of believing; or a jussive: Let the law of praying establish the law of believing; or using the “ut”: So that/in order that the law of praying may establish the law of believing… (clearly, the rest of the sentence is important here)?

Despite the confusion, there is no doubt that Prosper is has captured an essential connection. What we pray shapes what we believe but only if we keep praying and we keep praying the same thing… This phrase makes the most sense when discussing prayer not as an occasional activity or discussing the wording of any particular prayer but when looking at prayer as an established habit of life, a way of being. Repetition makes habits, repetition forms belief. The habitual use of certain liturgical forms imprints the theology inherent in them into our thought structure. We learn our theology most viscerally through the repetition of our liturgy, moving our mouths, moving our bodies in patterns.

And we do not move them alone. This is the importance of naming the book the Book of Common Prayer. We are not the only one’s praying in this way and with these words. We are not absorbing this theology as individuals but as communities. This is why I refer to the BCP as a true instrument of unity; it is not just the source of our common prayer but of our common theology rooted in that prayer. Too, this is why the Anglican Church does not have confessional documents like the Lutheran Church. Rather than legislating what we say that we ought to believe, we legislated what we do when we gather together for prayer. It is often said that it doesn’t matter what you think as long as you use the liturgy; this is rooted in the belief that if you use the liturgy faithfully it will shape what you think into appropriate channels.

What beautiful theory! Such a shame that things aren’t this tidy, though… Two main problems come immediately to my mind: 1) how common is common prayer, and 2) how do we account for the failure of formation?

The Failure of Common Prayer
First, our community of prayer is no longer common. In the American church this is seen mostly clearly in the struggle over the ’79 prayer book. Some like it, some hate it; some are exclusively Rite I, some are exclusively Rite II, some use both. Our common prayer book is at odds with itself, presenting two different liturgies with two different theologies. I don’t think I need to argue this point—it’s pretty evident. The theology of Rite I is more penitential on the whole; the awareness of sin and the concomitant need for salvation which we do not deserve is closer to the surface. Rite II focuses more on celebration; sin and penitence are further from the fore.

We know how this shakes out communally as well; we’ve probably all been to ’28 prayer book/’40 hymnal parishes. Universally, they’re at the margins of ECUSA or out of it entirely by their own choice. The selection of the prayer book signals that the parish has a different theological grounding than where the leadership of ECUSA is. Note that I’m not passing judgment here. And I’m willing to agree that certain changes between Rite I and Rite II have altered—I won’t quite say eviscerated, but certainly altered and not for the better—the theology therein to reflect a different theology.

To make things messier the opposition between Rite I and II is not just theological. The struggle between the rites is further complicated by issues not centrally related to the theology of the rites. That is, there’s the language issue. On one hand, it’s a stretch to call Rite I the vernacular of the people; on the other, it’s beautiful in ways that Rite II really isn’t. Then there’s the use of inclusive language for the congregation. Rite II reflects the common use of gender-neutral language to include both men and women. Some, however, see this as a slippery slope for inclusive language altogether and fear that any inclusive language will lead to naming the Triune deity in ways that describe Hecate better than YHWH and company. These aren’t central in my mind to the real theological differences between the two but they do play into the choice of one over the other.

Moving outside of America, the root problem remains but is even more complicated. Across the Communion the base prayer book is that of 1662. In theory. But enculturation and struggles against the legacy of imperialistic colonialism have led to indigenous liturgies with varying degrees of fidelity to the theoretical 1662 norm. America is just one example of these tensions. The ’79 prayer book moved us away from the 1662 book in dramatic ways. As we pull away from that book we pull away from our Communion neighbors even as they pull away in other, different, directions. If common prayer shapes common theology, what is the practical prayed difference between American and African theology? To put a finer point on it, how does the theology of Rite II stack up with the average Sunday liturgy as celebrated in Lagos? [NB: The thoughts in this paragraph are entirely due to one of M’s papers—just to give credit where credit is due. I feel this is a critical point and its been absent from all of the discussions on the matter that I’m aware of.]

The Failure of Formation
If my theory of liturgical formation is correct, there should be no such things as non-Trinitarian priests or people who cross their fingers as they say the creeds. A former prof of mine keeps pushing the beauty of liturgical formation in both the theological and moral realms to the point where I wonder: if he’s right how can there be indifferent or downright evil priests and monastics—and there are.

Perhaps it is because liturgical formation is fundamentally passive. It shapes us subtly over long periods of time. It can also be drowned out by alternate formation, especially by competing forms of intellectual formation. Thus we have our various sides of the spectrum: Bishop Spong, Bishop/Father/defrocked layperson David Moyer, Canon Kendall Harmon—they all use liturgies of an approved prayer book yet hold theological beliefs that are quite different if not radically different. In the last two cases, their theologies are not opposed to the prayer book of their choice as far as I know but their emphases within that prayer book are quite different from one another. With the first, his theology is opposed to a plain-sense reading of certain parts of the prayer book (especially the Rite I parts).

The Constructive Part
So, we have uncommon prayer and incomplete formation with regard to the text that should have the most potential to bring us together. What’s the answer? Of course, I don’t have any easy answers but I do have some provisional suggestions.

First, let’s be intentional about remaining in common prayer. Let’s take the common part seriously. Experimental liturgies are great and all, but why not really form ourselves in repetition of the common texts? The repetition of the common prayer is essential. Yes, this means using the same liturgies week after week, day after day. That’s the way that it gets into your body, your mind, your heart, your blood. You know you’re on the right track when the liturgy slips into your writing and conversation without it requiring any conscious thought.

Second, don’t let your liturgical formation be passive. Think about the texts that you’re repeating day after day. Consider what the theologies are in them. Consider how they fit within the rite as a whole and ultimately serve to point us towards the Book, the Font, the Altar and the Triune God that stands behind these. How do they point to the cross, the shattered gates of hell, the empty tomb, and the mysterious overflowing love of God? Take time apart from worship to examine and familiarize yourself with your prayer book.

As a contrarian, I’ll assert that alternative and experimental liturgies do play a part here. The occasional use or contemplation of these liturgies can reinforce these two disciplines. First, they may bring a fuller meaning to the common text by reframing it in different ways; repetition can lead to ruts in your theological thinking—the experimental can aid in keeping a full view of the Gospel possibilities. Second, interacting with them theologically and viscerally can help your reflection on the common texts. Something about a new rite doesn’t feel right? Reflect on why not. Don’t assume that your gut is wrong, but explore what boundaries are being pushed or crossed and how these are helpful or not.

Common prayer is a crucial link between common belief and common life or “life together” as one of our Lutheran friends styles it… By being common and being intentional, I think that we can come to a more balanced place that helps us focus first on the Gospel, and less on the troubles plaguing us.

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The Creeds II

So, in an earlier post I discussed some of the historical and exegetical issues surrounding the formation of the creeds. However, stating the origins of a thing and discussing its current applications are two different things. To summarize briefly, the creeds were developed to serve as a meta-narrative that located the key parts of the Faith by securing a literal meaning to select portions of biblical narrative, specifically parts in question by heretical groups. Fast-forward 2,000 years and here we are today… [One quick procedural point: When I think of the creeds my first thought is of the Apostles’ Creed rather than the Nicene. Thus, it’s the one I work off of instinctively.]

The creeds were formed in a different age with radically different philosophical conceptions and scientific notions. They are based in a foreign way of understanding literary documents and of conceptualizing religious communities. They functioned in certain ways then, how do we use them now? Have these categories changed too much for them to be useful?

Intellectually, the biggest problem that I can see with using the creeds in the modern church is a disconnect in worldviews, especially the understanding of the physical world. The modern American worldview is heavily conditioned by Western science and preeminently Newtonian physics. (As cool as quantum physics may be, it hasn’t penetrated to the daily assumptions of normal people yet and probably never will.) The two most important point of this belief system in relation to the creeds are these: 1) scientific theories are verified by observation of reproducible data and 2) reliable science is predictive, which follows logically from 1. That is to say, if I throw a quarter up in the air one hundred times, I can be confident that it will come back down. Furthermore, if I have a steady hand and a good eye, I can consistently throw it in such a way that I can more or less describe its arc by means of a mathematical equation. These assumptions form the bedrock of our understanding of reality.

What does this have to do with the creeds? Just this: the majority of the beliefs in the creed, especially those concerning the first two persons of the Trinity, deal specifically with completely non-reproducible, unpredictable events many of which contradict what we know from our quotidian experience of reproducible data. Once again, that’s to say, I know how babies are made and I know how dead bodies act. The creeds fly in the face of that knowledge. Or, to push a different edge, I don’t know how the world was created and will never have the opportunity to observe the whole process again. And I don’t know scientifically what it means to have a God-Man and how his body would or would not share the same biochemical structures as the rest of us. In other words, these events are not repeatable and we have no data to prove or disprove the creedal statements except by analogy to repeatable phenomena. We cannot directly access either the moment or acts of creation or the resurrection. At least with creation we can study what remains but even that can not answer questions of causes—it will only demonstrate mechanisms.

The problem, then, is a conflict of worldviews. A literal understanding of the creeds as they were originally intended to be understood is in conflict with a modern scientific worldview. Now we must ask what to do with this conflict.

In order to resolve the conflict and to achieve consistency of thought, one worldview must win and supplant the other. Thus on one hand we have those who pick the biblical/creedal worldview over the scientific worldview. Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, a general suspicion that physical scientists are part of an atheistic conspiracy against God and the Family seem to be the fruits of this side. On the other hand are those who pick the scientific worldview over the biblical/creedal worldview. And yes, this view has a long and distinguished history in Western intellectual circles from the Deists on forward to the likes of Bishop Spong and clergy who say the creeds but confess to believing very little of them or taking them only in an allegorical sense. Many if not most of the people in the seminaries that I have attended or been around have been quite congenial to this second view. But are these really our only options?

One of my favorite conceits in the Science Fiction movies of yore was the preferred manner for the unarmed Space Hero to destroy the Killer Robot hard on his heels. It’s easy enough to do—just yell out some sort of conundrum (what rhymes with “orange”?)—and the Killer Robot would lurch to a halt, smoke pouring out of convenient orifices. Ever seen anyone try that when being pursued with a guy with a gun? Didn’t think so. He might think about it for a second, shrug, and start shooting…

My point is this: human beings live in a messy, contingent, incarnational world. Things are always more complicated than they seem. Humans are fully capable of working simultaneously within multiple and conflicting worldviews. This came home to me most strongly when I first read Bultmann’s classic Jesus Christ and Mythology as an undergrad; the same thought is expressed in his essay from this book. He writes:

Man’s knowledge and mastery of the world have advanced to such an extent through science and technology that it is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New Testament view of the world-in fact, there is no one who does. What meaning, for instance, can we attach to such phrases in the creed as “descended into hell” or “ascended into heaven”? We no longer believe in the three-storied universe which the creeds take for granted. The only honest way of reciting the creeds is to strip the mythological framework from the truth they enshrine-that is, assuming that they contain any truth at all, which is just the question that theology has to ask. No one who is old enough to think for himself supposes that God lives in a local heaven. There is no longer any heaven in the traditional sense of the word. The same applies to hell in the sense of a mythical underworld beneath our feet. And if this is so, the story of Christ’s descent into hell and of his Ascension into heaven is done with. We can no longer look for the return of the Son of Man on the clouds of heaven or hope that the faithful will meet him in the air (I Thess. 4:15ff.). …

It is impossible to use electric light and the wireless and to avail ourselves of modern medical and surgical discoveries, and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of spirits and miracles.

My response on first reading the last line was to say…but we do. We do and can believe in contradictory things at the same time. Smoke doesn’t belch from anywhere—we may get confused in extreme cases of overlap, but we can live quite comfortably using insights from a pre-scientific Christian world view to those from a contradictory Newtonian physics perspective mingled with those from a contradictory quantum physics perspective to those of a Platonic universe. Specifically speaking as an American Pragmatist, I go with the worldview that works. When I’m in “installing computer components” mode, I’m all Newtonian physics. When I’m in “playing cards” mode, I’m all about quantum physics and probability mechanics [which with my pop-scientific knowledge may explain why I don’t play cards for money ;-D]. When I wonder about my salvation, I go pre-scientific all the way.

How does this make me neither schizophrenic nor intellectually inconsistent? Because I’m not hegemonic about any of my worldviews. I think that they are all models that serve to describe certain aspects of reality from certain perspectives. If I was wondering where a quarter would go if I threw it with a certain velocity at a certain trajectory, I feel confident that Newtonian physics could describe the arc for me and, furthermore, that chaos theory could give me the probability that the Newtonian equation would prove incorrect. These equations are not reality, though; they map it and offer a way to understand it especially when I approach it with certain questions. I don’t think that any of these worldviews offer all of the answers to any apprehension of reality and that gives me the freedom to switch between them when I need to.

So—where does that get me with the creeds? I believe the creeds literally. Scientifically, I can’t tell you how they work. I have no idea how to model the Ascension mathematically—which is the part that ties my logical brain into the worst knot. It also doesn’t bother me that much. As the only humanities guy in a family of hard scientists I take the sciences seriously. I also know their down-side when they are taken as a philosophical system; they offer only an empirical materialism of cause and effect. It’s the epicureans redivivus. I find them lacking in power. And maybe power is the point. In living between worldviews I have found a certain amount of power in a scientific worldview, the kind of power that confirms its truth. I can calculate events and have the events turn out a certain way. I have found the beauty of equations replicated in microscopic corners of the world. But the same is also true of the religious, pre-scientific worldview; I have experienced the power of the resurrection in my life, of the communion of the saints, and God as creator in ways that verify their truth. While the scientific worldview has power in its realm it cannot touch the spiritual side of my life the way that the creedal truths do. (And the same holds true the other way–science offers far more compelling arguments in the realm of things material.)

As a result when in the field of personal belief I experience a conflict between the creedal worldview and the scientific worldview, I go with the creeds. I cannot explain them scientifically, I cannot explain the mechanics of the Trinity but I believe it and I believe that it matters for how I live and move in the world. One of the reasons that I allow the creeds to trump science too is because of hope. I hope that there is more to life and existence than empirical materialism. Faith in the creeds allows a belief in the mundus plenior, a world where reality cannot be bounded only by what can be weighed and measured. There are wonders in the world that our science does not explain. Maybe some day it will but even if it does it will not diminish my belief in something beyond the purely physical.

In short, I’m proposing an active cognitive dissonance. Not an unthinking one that does not recognize the conflict between worldviews, but one that both notes it and appreciates that all of our worldviews are reductionistic models of a reality that we can never completely quantify or wrap our heads around. Call it a creative contradiction. So, what do you think? Does it work?

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