I Make No Promises

The last time I blogged was almost a year ago. I don’t blog that often. It is not a high priority on my list. Quite frankly, I think I should be writing more seriously. A blog feels whimsical or too down-right endless stream of consciousness-ish for me. However, I feel like I need an outlet to practice writing a little on a regular basis and this may be the best avenue for that. But, I make no promises to do this regularly.

I have a few ideas that I want to blog about right now. But I don’t know if those Ideas will keep coming. Most of them are small observations from reading that I do. But I find that if I write them down I remember them a lot better. So, that will be the reason I blog. The content will be eclectic, like me.

A few updates: I’m starting my second time around in the Hebrew bible and I’m loving it. I feel more comfortable in the language than I did two years ago when I started reading through it. That should be obvious. I find that reading in a different language helps me to focus better. My mind is not prone to wander as much when I read in Hebrew & Greek. I’ll probably blog about the work that goes into that a little. I think it is important for others to see that endurance in a task can lead to great things.

I’ve been studying early Church history with a friend. I like it so much I’ve decided to devote a portion of my time to Syriac fathers. Syriac is a semitic language and isn’t too hard to pick up if you have Hebrew. I’m a novice on this subject, but I hope to grow in this area. There are a lot of untranslated works for the Syriac Fathers, and a good portion of them are online in digital format over ay BYU.

Finally, I have been busy researching more on the collective noun in Hebrew. I hope to start writing more on this soon.

Cloud Atlas: A Review (Spoiler Alert)

What can I say about a book that took me two months to read? A book that is built like a russian Matryoshka doll (a.k.a. nesting doll); or for those a little more literally knowledgeable, a chiasmus. Of course, the time it took for me to read a book who’s story-line is not sequential made what story-line was present seem more like a Monet than a Gustave Courbet. (Let the reader understand)

The novel is set around six stories. The first and last is about a notary from San Francisco sailing the south Pacific. I say first and last because his story is broken mid-sentence, interrupted by the other five stories which appear in its place both ascending and descending (the second story continues next to last at the end). The second is that of a musician, Robert Fobrischer. The third, that of an investigative reporter Louisa Rey. The fourth, a Mr. Cavendish (perhaps my favorite). The fifth, a a fabricant, or clone, named Sonmi-451. And finally, at the center of the book, the story of Sloosha, a stone aged type island man (who oddly enough exists, I believe, after the other stories).

Each story connects somehow to another even though they are set in different periods of time. There are interesting aspects to each story that tie them together: a shared birthmark, a familiar tune (written by our own Robert Fobrisher), or books. Each story having peculiar oddities of its own. The speech of Sloosha reminds one of the speech imitated in Shaw’s Pygmalion. Or Sonmi-451 fighting against corpocracy (commercialism), which uses the word Nike for shoes, or starbucks for coffee. Namebrands that have become common nouns. The story is full of interesting little tidbits like that, which will in the end, aid the story as it moves along…somehow…anachranistically.

My hope is to read it again the the future and break each of the stories out on their own. Perhaps this will actually tie the stories together better for my mind.

There are moments of sheer hilarity in the book. Perhaps my favorite is the second story of “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timoty Cavendish.” A tale about a man who has, in his mind, been wrongly confined to a nursing home by his brother and his attempt to break out of said nursing home. Imagine, if you will, four elderly people stealing a Land Rover and busting through an iron gate at 55 mph; who were scott free when they realized that the map where they had planed their get away was sitting back on one of their nightstands. This map included their first stop for gas and a bite, which was where they were when they realized that their mission had been compromised. Upon this realization in walk their pursuers. And who is the hero? Who delivers the old people from the clutches of the young? Ah, but the octogenarian who has been acting catatonic until he got his big break. Using his keen since of setting (A Scottish Bar) and his pursuers (a man from souther England) yells, “What did you say about the Scottish!?”

The whit in this section gave me a good belly laugh in the middle of the coffee shop I was reading in. If you read no other story in this work, this one is a must read.

If you do venture to read the book, it is worth it to see what his understanding of man’s telos is on page 507-508. I continually find it interesting that works that are dubbed as post-modern always hope for telos, or purpose. This one has a telos, but seems to hint at no purpose, only to reel it back again. It can’t quite let go of that hope.

In regards to living a virtuous life, the outer shell of our nesting doll says:

You’ll be spat on, shot at, lynched,pacified with medals, spurned by backwoodsmen! Crucified! Naive, dreaming Adam. He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than a drop in a limitless ocean!”

Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?


And Inkling and a Dolt Find Something in Common

I read the letters of C. S. Lewis daily. Just two to three letters, no more. I enjoy the process quite a bit. Many times my life and what Lewis wrote overlap and I find counsel, encouragement, perspective, and sometimes a good laugh.

The most recent congruence between my life and his letters was the answer to a question that he so graciously provided. I am reading, “On the Incarnation” with a friend and he received a different translation than mine (Mine is John Behr’s–and yes I have the Greek/English copy). No translator was given only the letters CSMV for his copy. We didn’t know who the translator was. The next day I read Lewis’ letter to a Sister Penelope thanking her for her kind dedication to him in her translation of “On the Incarnation” by Athanasius. Next to her name–CSMV. Question answered! But I have diverted from my original purpose of this post. I’ve gone from feeling a connection between myself and another inkling into an apology (think defense) for why I like reading the letters. I, as I so often do, digress….

Lewis was writing to a man by the name of Charles A. Brady on Oct 29th, 1944, and set forth a brief description of J. R. R. Tolkien’s willingness to publish his works. He writes:

His published works (both imaginative & scholarly) ought to fill a shelf by now: but he’s one of those people who is never satisfied with a MS. The mere suggestion of publication provokes the reply, ‘Yes, I’ll just look through it and give it a few finishing touches.’–wh. means that he really begins the whole thing over again.

Now, the great difference between Tolkien and this dolt is that he has a lot of works already written. I do not. I have trashed all of my works for the most part–or my attempts. The similarity is not the amassing of finished work, but rather in our feelings towards them. We never really like them well enough to think they should be published. There is always something we can do better. Ah, the plight of the perfectionist. Die vile scoundrel!

It is nice to know that we are on the same plane somewhere. I am sure it is the only thing we have in common with our writing.

Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar: A Review

This work by Horatius Bonar, a 19th century Scottish pastor, is all about encouraging its readers to treasure the gospel and to never tire in the labor for the gospel. Bonar’s intended audience are ministers in churches. However, the book may be read by all Christians who desire to see their world impacted for the gospel.

Bonar first calls for ministers to focus on their one object: to win souls. In order to do this, the minister must first be a Christian. This may seem obvious but Bonar presses this point. For him, the minister’s Christianity should not be a stale Christianity. Anyone can do that. The minister’s Christianity must be on fire. In order to do that they must lay aside everything to seek God. They should rise early to seek God before they give their day to anyone else. He states, “Let us seek the Lord early. ‘If my heart be early seasoned with his presence, it will savor of him all day after.'” (p. 10) For Bonar, rising early is focused on prayer, contra most of our contemporary culture which focuses on bible reading. In fact, the remainder of the paragraph deals with prayer.
The minister must focus on his own soul and must walk with God.

Bonar also calls out the laziness of the minister’s in his day (which also calls out our ministers today). He pushes for all ministers to set their hearts on winning lost souls. He writes,

“No; really to give anything to God implies that the will, which is emphatically the heart, has been set on that thing; and if the heart has indeed been set on the salvation of sinners as the end to be answered by the means we use, we can not possibly give up that end without, as we before observed, the heart being severely exercised and deeply pained by the renunciation of the will involved in it. When, therefore, we can be quietly content to use the means for saving souls without seeing them saved thereby, it is because there is no renunciation of the will–that is not real giving up to God in the affair. The fact is, the will-that is, the heart–had never really beens set upon this end; it is had, it could not possibly give up such an end without being broken by the sacrifice…The soul and eternity of one man depends upon the voice of another.” (p. 22 & 24)

This quote was from the most convicting chapter for me. I highly recommend this book to anyone. It demonstrates a very mature, gentle, bold encouragement for the reader to labor diligently in gospel service.

John Donne, Hugh Grant, Bruce Milne, and the Church

“No man is an Island.” At least, that’s what John Donne said. And somehow, by some ironic twist of fate, this statement has forever formed a connection for me between a christian book and a secular movie. The book is We Belong Together by Bruce Milne which deals with what it means for the church to have true fellowship together. The other is a movie entitled About a Boy (trailer) starring Hugh Grant. Both the book and the movie begin with Donne’s words (the movie returns to it again in the end). And now, you have a sure fire way to win the Seven degrees of Kevin Bacon with the author of a book—winning.

Milne’s work has greatly influenced me these past couple of weeks as I read through it for my internship. I will share a great deal of what he says in several blog posts here over the next couple of weeks. However, what I want to do in this blog post is discuss the movie a bit. So if you haven’t seen it, please watch. If you do plan on seeing it you may not want to read past this point. If you don’t plan on watching it just take my word for it or watch the trailer above.

Why do I want to discuss the movie? Because I think the movie portrays a community (or fellowship) more closely related to biblical fellowship. The movie begins by unfolding the habits of Will Freeman (played by Grant), which lead the viewer to see him as a self-centered philanderer who doesn’t want to care for anyone at all. And, on top of that, he doesn’t really care that no one cares for him. He likes it that way.

But like any other movie, a transformation of the protagonist takes place. Through the course of events he meets a young boy whose mom is completely messed up. She’s depressed, crazy, and even attempts suicide after she meets Freeman. The boy keeps showing up at his door asking him for help. All the while Freeman is sucked into a community without realizing it– a community which accepts, and challenges, him and his self-centeredness. And, in turn, he accepts the crazy depression and seeks to transform the mom’s world too. By the end of the movie, he’s in a community of love which ends up being hard but worth it.

This type of fellowship, I would contend, is like the fellowship that the church should have. A body of messed up people, saved by Christ, changed by his love, and seeking to love everyone into a fuller understanding of his grace. We are just a whole bunch of messed up, sinful people. Life together is hard, and far too often we abandon it for an “easy” Christian life where we are separated by great thick walls; not willing to realize what Freeman realizes in the movie….that messed up community is better than none. And quite frankly, it is what God has set up to protect and nurture our souls.

Like I already mentioned, I will be referring to Milne’s works over the next couple of weeks. I hope that this will have the same wonderful effect on you that it has had on me.

And So It Begins

I have, for quite some time now, put off any deep discussion of biblical texts, texts linguistics, interpretation, and deep biblical theology. Why? Because I was plum wore out. I thought it would only take a semester to defrag from the Ph.D. program. I was wrong. It has taken over a year. Every time I attempted to read anything that would be considered “scholarly,” I developed a tick. But now, I have it under control and actually desire to read some of those works that six months ago I thought about removing from my personal library.

The title of this post indicates something is beginning. What is it? A look at the biblical text and reviews of books that actually deal with that subject. Yep, I’m getting back into reading academically. But not for academics sake only. I hope to apply much of what I write here to Christian life and practice. I didn’t realize that I was ready for this until a chance meeting in Dr. Madden’s office on Monday. Dr. Cole came over to talk to Dr. Madden about a something totally unrelated. But, as always, when you get OT professors together they start talking about the Old Testament. Dr. Madden gave me a call and I walked into the office with Dr. Cole talking about the similarities between the stories of the Patriarchs in the book of Genesis.

Within a few minutes I was back in biblical thinking mode. While I sat back and said nothing, my mind was churning, making further connections from my study of the Abrahamic narratives over the past couple of years. Something was different this time though. I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it. All I can say is that my mind felt free to make certain connections that it was not able to do before. Even that explanation is weak in expressing my true meaning. Since it is a bit nebulous to me, I will leave it that way for you.

The big change can be describe like this. Over a year ago I sat in a seminar giving a presentation on Rabbinic literature. I remember looking at the professor as I spoke thinking to myself the whole time, “I have no more interest in Old Testament studies.” After a year of recuperation, reading the Hebrew Bible (I’m in Ezekiel now), and the chance meeting yesterday; I found myself wanting to pick up my subject again. A new fire is lit under me…but still away from academe.
With that said, be prepared for some different, perhaps deeper, blog post coming from me.