1. Whatever form the Law takes, dictated by fickle zeitgeist, it leaves behind a few years later. Forms can be remarkably inconsistent among different demographics, and after we finally escape one form of (little-l) law, we look back and scorn it, wondering how we (or anyone else) ever could’ve gotten so attached to it. For example, masculinity: the more and more we escape the pressure for men to be super macho, the more contemptible we find its earnest expression, as if embarrassed by our previous adherence. Even commercials which target the lowest common denominator of the masculine – such as Axe –…
Thank you Aaron Rodgers! The Green Bay QB gave a great answer to a question he was asked on his weekly radio show a few days ago during a “mailbag answer” segment. Here’s the exchange:
(Radio Host) Jason Wilde: Melissa says: I always find it a little off-putting when athletes, actors, and anybody says, “This is what God wanted” or “I want to thank God for helping us win today” — anything along those lines when a game or award is won. I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the gist. Personally, with all the chaos in the world, I’m not sure…
Hannah Arendt, a non-Christian thinker with a strangely more accurate perception of Christianity than almost anyone, offers some thoughts on the problems with being good:
The one activity taught by Jesus in word and deed is the action of goodness, and goodness obviously harbors a tendency to hide from being seen or heard. Christian hostility toward the public realm, the tendency of at least the early Christians to lead a life as far removed from the public realm as possible, can also be understood as a self-evident consequence of devotion to good works independent of all beliefs and expectations. For it is manifest that the moment a good work becomes known and public, it loses its specific character of goodness, being done for nothing but goodness’ sake. When goodness appears openly, it is no longer goodness, though it may still be useful as organized charity or an act of solidarity. Therefore: ‘Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.’ Goodness can exist only when it is not perceived, not even by its author; whoever sees himself performing a good work is no longer good, but at best a useful member of society or a dutiful member of a church. Therefore: ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’
It may be this curious negative quality of goodness, the lack of outward phenomenal manifestation, that makes Jesus of Nazareth’s appearance in history such a profoundly paradoxical event; and it certainly seems to be the reason that he thought and taught that no man could be good: ‘Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.’ The same conviction finds its expression in the talmudic story of the thirty-six righteous men, for the sake of whom God saves the world and who also are known to nobody, least of all to themselves. We are reminded of Socrates’ great insight that no man can be wise, out of which love for wisdom, or philo-sophy, was born; the whole life story of Jesus seems to testify how love for goodness arises out of the insight that no man can be good.
(The Human Condition, pp 74-75)
“What are my initials?” my friend Billy asked in response to my ludicrous comment. The obvious answer—apparent to anyone who knows him—is: “BS!” It’s not that I was spewing lies, though they most certainly weren’t truthful. It’s just that it carried no concern for the truth whatsoever because the statements were given for a different purpose: I said them only to get a rise out of him. And Billy saw right through it.
So at the risk of oversimplification, one might say there’s truth, lies, and the ambiguous middle known as bullsh*t. This is what philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s little book On Bullsh*t explores. He…
From the prologue to The Human Condition:
In 1957, an earth-born object made by man was launched into the universe… The immediate reaction, expressed on the spur of the moment, was relief about the first “step toward escape from men’s imprisonment to the earth”… What is new [in this comment] is only that one of this country’s most respectable newspapers finally brought to its front page what up to then had been buried in the highly non-respectable literature of science fiction (to which, unfortunately, nobody yet has paid the attention is deserves as a vehicle of mass sentiments and mass desires). The banality of the statement should not make us overlook how extraordinary in fact it was; for although Christians have spoken of the earth as a vale of tears and philosophers have looked upon their body as a prison of mind or soul, nobody in the history of mankind has ever conceived of the earth as a prison for men’s bodies or shown such eagerness to go literally from here to the moon. Should the emancipation and secularization of the modern age, which began with a turning-away, not necessarily from God, but from a god who was the Father of men in heaven, end with an even more fateful repudiation of an Earth who was the Mother of all living creatures under the sky? …and the wish to escape the human condition, I suspect, also underlies the hope to extend man’s lifespan far beyond the hundred-year limit.
This future man, whom the scientists tell us they will produce in no more than a hundred years, seems to be possessed by a rebellion against human existence as it has been given, a free gift from nowhere (secularly speaking), which he wishes to exchange, as it were, for something he has made himself.
A few items were added to my New Year’s to-do list in a Bible study last week:
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Another great post from Michael Nicholson, looking at the far reaches of the stars and the farther reaches of God through the lens of sci-fi film. Enjoy!
You descended from the stars,
O king of heaven,
and came to a cave,
in the frosty cold.
~ Tu scendi dalle stelle, 18th cent. Italian Christmas carol
In the first golden age of science fiction film, in the 1950s, the standard, nearly universal paradigm for depicting alien visitors from the solar system and the stars was that they were implacably hostile to humanity. The classic film in this genre was the original War of the Worlds (1953),…
Another Week Ends: Failed God Movies, Vintner Jesus, Modernized Evangelicals, Church-Nerd Humor and (More) Futile Resolutions
1. The Net’s been a little sparse this week due, I assume, to people traveling and days off work and such, so here’s a brief week-ender with a few good links. First off, at The Atlantic, Emma Green wonders why 2014’s most religious movies were some of its worst, citing Noah (which was pretty good in our books); Exodus, which seems pretty over-the-top/plain bad; as well as Left Behind, God’s Not Dead, and Heaven Is for Real, all of which we’d probably have theological (not to mention critical) reservations about. Anyway, she diagnoses a few interesting problems of the God-movie genre in our day:
Despite their varying…
Maybe its just me, but after the final Candlelight Christmas service is finished, the last relative has gone home, and all of the gifts have been unwrapped, there I find myself staring the New Year right in her shiny, best-intentioned face. I’m the Ebenezer Scrooge of New Years. I loathe the pressure to make a resolution. Phrases like “goals for the year” or “Paleo Diet” make me feel short of breath.
Its not that I don’t get on the New Year’s bandwagon with everyone else. As I write, we have three healthy cookbooks on their way to my house. I plan on reorganizing my 7-month-old daughter’s nursery…
Some years of theology publications are better than others, and to be honest the crop has not been so plentiful this year. But the books that have come out are pretty fantastic, and well worth a read.
The Second Letter to the Corinthians by Mark Seifrid. This is not your normal commentary! Rather than retreading ad nauseum all of usual topics commentaries cover like authorship, dating, provenance, Greek parsings etc., Seifrid’s main purpose is to explicate Paul’s theological logic throughout the book. The Paul that emerges is one of real theological breadth and profound commitment to the grace of God in…
I present this with all of the love and Christian charity I can muster, but if I ever hear the following churchy phrases again, it will be too soon. And if you use them around me in the year of 2015, I will give you the “Ouiser Boudreaux.”
1. She’s earning jewels for her crown in heaven.
Wait, there are crowns and a system of jewels? Is this like a Kay Jeweler Add a Charm, bracelet thing? Can I request an all emerald edition? But seriously, I’ve never heard this phrase used in regards to anything except our own egos. And it…
This is the second time in my life I have been pregnant during Christmas. With the first, I was only a few short weeks into the process and so mostly just doe-eyed, exhausted, and power-eating Chick-fil-a. This go-round though, I’m at 18 weeks and still running for the toilet every time I eat anything with sugar, change a diaper, or drink liquid with too much vigor.
Nausea aside, being pregnant during “The Season” sheds so much light on “The Reason.” The season leading up to Christmas, what we call Advent, is a season of waiting and anticipation. Easter is probably supposed…