Monday, August 30, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Ephesians 3-6 and Philippians 1

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through Ephesians, chapters 3-6 and Philippians, chapter 1.


Chapter 3

  • Verses 3-6 - I'll admit to not pulling out a concordance to check, but I don't think I've seen this idea (that the Gentiles and Jews share in the gospel) referred to as a "mystery" before.  It seems to me that's not a word that gets used by accident....
Chapter 4
  • Verses 17-19 - I find it intriguing that "Gentiles" are being written of in this way.  In other letters, Paul complains that the Jews have been "hardened" against the gospel.  Of course, this passage is less about race and more about those who are in Christ (regardless of race).  It is almost as though Gentile doesn't mean "non-Jew," but rather "non-Christian."
Chapter 5
  • Verses 21-33 - As I'm writing this (on August 30th, which means I'm already late for my usual Monday morning posting time!), it is my 7th anniversary.  While reflecting on my (then-upcoming) anniversary, I stumbled upon a post I wrote nearly five years ago, contrasting my own wedding service with another that happened two years later in the same worship space. We both used (most of) this passage of Scripture as our central text, but the differences are rather telling.  In the interest of fairness, it should be acknowledged that scholars are divided as to whether verse 21 should go with the preceding verses, or with the verses that follow, as in the TNIV (in contrast with the NIV), and as my own wedding officiant used this passage1.
Chapter 6
  • Verse 4: "Fathers, do not exasperate your children" - One wonders what Paul had in mind here.  Patzia says that the Greek word means "provoke to anger."2  Was there some common practice that Paul was especially writing against?
  • Verses 5-9 - Concerning slavery.  That Paul seems not to condemn the practice, but indeed exhorts obedience of slaves to their masters, has been a source of contention for ages.  Perhaps it is too flippant to acknowledge that the passage reflects the laws and morality of the time (however true that may be) as if to suggest that such passages hold no weight anymore.  It is perhaps important simply to recognize that many Christians of this era were slaves,3 and thus it was important to recognize that God had something to say to them in their new state as believers. 
  • Verses 10-17 - This passage describing "the full armor of God" is surprisingly detailed.  I wonder why it was considered necessary to engage in this extended metaphor.
Philippians
Chapter 1
  • Verse 7 - This is the first of quite a number of times that Paul refers to his "chains" in this letter.  It is apparent that Paul is imprisoned.  Yet he mentions his imprisonment almost off-handedly.  I'm left to assume that Paul's readers knew about his condition before they even got the letter.  I wonder how long he had been "in chains" by this time?
  • Verse 14 - I'm especially curious as to how Paul's condition (which, while it could be worse, is clearly not what one might prefer) is actually such an encouragement to other Christians, such that they can "proclaim the gospel without fear."

1See Arthur G. Patzia, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (New International Biblical Commentary), Hendrickson, 1984, pp. 264-265.
2Patzia, p. 279.
3See Patzia, p. 91.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Christus Victor and the Saga of Fifi

Just yesterday morning, I took the Theological Competence exam required for ordination in the PC(USA).  Long-time readers will know that this is one a battery of exams that are usually taken all at once, and that I have passed all the others quite a number of years ago.  My taking this one again now (after a break of nearly a decade) is a fairly significant milestone for me.  Unfortunately, I won't know whether I've actually passed the exam or not until late October.

In order to prepare for this exam, I spent the better part of my past week or so listening to lectures recorded when I audited Dr. John Thompson's Presbyterian Creeds course two years ago.  During one lecture on the atonement, he shared this story to illustrate the concept of the Christus Victor theory of the atonement.  I'm paraphrasing here on the basis of a verbal permission from Dr. Thompson to do so (given during the course, also recorded) provided I mention where I got it. (I wish I had the illustrations he had, but I'll try to make do with words)

The Saga of Fifi

You are the proud owner of a poodle named Fifi.  Fifi is a wonderful little dog, but not especially obedient.  When you take her with you on a fishing trip, she just won't follow your instructions.

"Sit, Fifi!  Stay put, Fifi!  Don't go near the side of the boat, Fifi!"

Needless to say, Fifi does wander too close to the side of the boat, and falls off.  But as Fifi does her pathetic effort at a dogpaddle, it gets worse!

A shark appears, and sees Fifi alone in the water, and goes after her.  Fifi is doomed!

Thankfully, all is not lost, for you remembered to bring lunch!  You have a nice, tasty, chicken in your boat, and you toss it overboard, assured that the shark will consider this fresh, juicy, meaty chicken a far more appetizing treat than scrawny little Fifi.  The shark takes the bait, releases Fifi, and goes after the chicken.  Fifi is saved!

But not only that, but this is no ordinary chicken.  This is really Super Chicken in disguise.  Super Chicken breaks the shark's jaw, and restores Fifi to perfect health as a bonus.  All is well with the world again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Women's Equality Day

When I first mentioned that "Women's Equality Day" was coming up on August 26th, a few of my friends rightly noted that one can't just fight for women's equality on only one day.  It's an issue that will always be with us until and unless such equality is achieved.  I agree wholeheartedly with this opinion.

Even so, it is appropriate that a day exists to especially remember that this is an issue that needs continued attention.  August 26th was chosen because it is the anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
I think it's important to note that, although the 19th Amendment is often referred to as having "given women the right to vote," the language of the Amendment itself doesn't talk about "giving" rights, but rather it says that those rights (assumed to be pre-existent) "shall not be denied or abridged."  A right should be understood to be inherent.  Otherwise it's just a privilege.

Now, there is a proper school of thought as to whether or not voting is a "right" or a "privilege."  I'm not looking to get into that here.  I am asserting that if it's a right for anyone, it should be a right for all.  Although a number of states had already granted full or partial suffrage to women by this time, the 19th Amendment finally recognized that for the United States as a whole in 1920 (For those who care, the 19th Amendment was ratified about a week earlier, on August 18th.  The signing date is simply when that adoption was certified by the then-Secretary of State).

Obviously, passage of the 19th Amendment didn't come easily.  The names of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton have passed into legend on account of the struggles they faced in rallying public opinion to their cause, and both passed away before seeing their dream of women's suffrage become a reality.  And a number of states not only voted against the ratification of the Amendment back in 1919 and 1920, but many didn't come back around to vote in favor of it until many, many years after it had already become the law of the land (the final state to do so, incidentally, was Mississippi in 1984.  Note that Alaska and Hawaii, both having become states well after the Amendment was part of the Constitution, have never had to vote on the Amendment at all).

Of course, suffrage is but one element of the larger struggle for women's equality.  In honor of this event, a number of blogs will be devoting some time today to discuss the issue in various ways.   For my part, I am doing a special one-day promotion on Women's Speaking Justified.  Today only, you can download the e-book for free!  No money required, just follow the on-screen instructions at Lulu.  If you would prefer the physical version, the price on that is reduced, too (plus, you might be able to find a code through RetailMeNot that you can use at Lulu.com and get a lower price, but that's outside of my control.  I think "BACKTOSCHOOL" for 20% off should work.).  This offer is only good today, August 26, 2010.  Prices will return to normal afterward (although the links will remain live, especially that RetailMeNot link, so you might still be able to get a good deal).

Monday, August 23, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: Galatians 4-6 and Ephesians 1-2

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through Galatians, chapters 4-6 and Ephesians, chapters 1-2.


Chapter 4

  • Verses 8-20 - When Paul opened this letter, he quickly got to the point about how he was concerned that the Galatians were too heavily influenced by some other group that was preaching "another gospel."  We're now more than half-way through the letter, and it remains clear that this outside influence is Paul's primary concern.   
  • Verses 21-31 - Paul knew the law extremely well, yet argues that we are not to live under it.  This is a primary concern for him, as his analogy from Genesis here demonstrates.  Even so, it seems worth the reminder that we've already seen several times that Paul does not equate "no longer living under the law" with an "anything goes" morality (indeed, Paul will remind us of this in the next chapter).
Chapter 5
  • Verse 3: "I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law." - I know I pointed this out last week already, but Paul's strong argument here is at odds with what he did with Timothy in the book of Acts.  
  • Verse 12: "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" - Strong words, indeed!
  • Verse 22: "Against (the fruit of the Spirit) there is no law." - And if we're not under the law, why should we care? ;)
Chapter 6
  • Verse 1 - I've often wondered what Paul intends when he admonishes people to restore those in sin "gently."  Paul himself seems far from gentle at times!
Ephesians
Chapter 1
  • Verse 1 - Ephesians is one of those letters that, although attributed to Paul in the text itself, its authorship is sometimes questioned by scholars.1 I see no reason to be dogmatic one way or the other on this issue.  Perhaps less controversial is the fact that the earliest manuscripts do not explicitly state that Ephesus was the letter's destination.  The prevailing theory is that what we now know of as "the letter to the Ephesians" was originally a circular letter intended for multiple churches, with the identity of the destination church to be filled in at this point.2
  • Verses 4 and 5 - The words "in love" at the end of verse 4 are taken by the TNIV as properly beginning the sentence that continues in verse 5.  That is to say, God predestines us in love.  However, those words might actually belong at the end of the sentence just prior to it (that is, the bulk of verse 4), indicating a response of love on the part of God's people.3
  • Verse 11 - The concept of predestination shows up again, this time coupled with being "chosen" by God.
Chapter 2
  • Verse 2: "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" - The context indicates that this phrase is intended to refer to Satan, but I confess I'm not clear on the history behind the phrase.  Why is Satan connected with "air," for example (indeed, this would argue against the common conception of heaven as a place in the clouds, wouldn't it?)?

1See Arthur G. Patzia, Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon (New International Biblical Commentary), Hendrickson, 1984, pp. 121-128.
2See Patzia, pp. 121-122, 146.
3Patzia, p. 153.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Special Transformers Teaser: Two Bombshells

The Insecticons are among the more memorable characters from Generation One. I'll need to do a feature on the whole set before long, but some unexpected events of the past week dictate that I don't have time to do a full review right now. In the meantime, here are some pictures of the two existing toys created of the Insecticon Bombshell. First, the original Bombshell in insect mode.

Next, the Action Master version, which was never available in the United States, alongside the robot mode of the original Bombshell.  For whatever reason, Bombshell is the only Insecticon character to be given an Action Master.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: 2 Corinthians 12-13 and Galatians 1-3

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through 2 Corinthians, chapters 12-13 and Galatians 1-3.


Chapter 12

  • Verse 2 - This idea of a "third" heaven is somewhat alien to modern Christianity, but was not unknown to ancient Judaism (although sources differ as to whether there were seven heavens, or just three or some other number1).  It certainly leaves one to wonder what the "first" and "second" heavens (and others, if Paul understood them to exist as well) were like.  Bruce also suggests that the man Paul refers to in the third person is, in fact, himself (verse 5 notwithstanding, and indeed this interpretation makes more sense of how this would be a continuance of boasting, as verse 1 indicates).
  • Verses 7-10 - It is impossible to be sure just what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was.2  It is enough to know that Paul had it, and how he ultimately dealt with it.
Chapter 13
  • Verses 5-7 - I'm curious as to how Paul imagines that the Corinthians are to "test" their faith.  He does not provide details, but considers this self-evident.
Galatians
Chapter 1
  • Verses 6-9 - Paul doesn't waste any time before getting to this matter, which he uses harsh words of condemnation about.  What was the nature of this "gospel," and what was appealing enough about it that the Galatians would be "so quickly deserting" the real gospel?
  • Verses 11-12 - Paul asserts that the real gospel is not of human origin.  But surely the proclaimers of the false gospel would make the same assertion, wouldn't they?
  • Verses 13-24 - Paul provides evidence to back up his assertion.  Would the proponents of the false gospel have anything with which to attempt to rebut such an argument?  Would they have "evidence" of their own?
Chapter 2
  • Verse 3 - Paul makes a point of saying the "not even Titus... was compelled to be circumcised."  So why was Timothy?
  • Verses 9, 11, 14 - The TNIV accurately preserves the fact that Paul uses the Aramaic version of Peter's name ("Cephas") in these instances, having referred to him as "Peter" in 7 and 8 already.  It is presumed that all of these refer to the same person3.  Why does Paul switch versions?
Chapter 3
  • Verse 28: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." - This verse is often cited in defense of women in ministry.  Those who oppose women in ministry (or perhaps more accurately, in ordained office) suggest that Paul is only referencing the state of one's salvation in this passage.  It seems to me that this passage is not about "salvation" so much as it is about "belonging to Christ."  Some may argue that this is the same thing, but it seems to me that "belonging to Christ" is far more expansive than just "salvation," per se.  It is definitely more expansive than "salvation" if by that word we are only talking about whether or not a person gets to heaven after they die. 

1See F.F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Corinthians, (The New Century Bible Commentary) Eerdmans, 1971, pp. 246-247, although Bruce does not specify what any of these "other" heavens were said to be like.
2Bruce, p. 248, demonstrates this by listing a multitude of diagnoses provided by ancient scholars.
3Although Clement of Alexandria apparently disagreed, identifying "Cephas" with one of the "Seventy" (or Seventy-Two) from Luke 10:1-24.  Unfortunately, the work in which Clement wrote this is lost, and we only have a reference from Eusebius telling us so.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

International Left-Handers Day: The Forgotten Holiday

President Obama is left-handed
It sometimes seems that there's a holiday for every occasion, even if very few people are aware that it exists.  Such is the case with "International Left-Handers Day," which has existed (if perhaps "celebrated" is to say too much) on August 13th every year since 1976.  Such is the lack of attention given to this day that, according to this 2006 piece from Washington Post writer Bill O'Brian, "the organization that started the movement is defunct."

Even though I myself am one of the 7-10% of the human population that is left-handed, I was unaware of the observance until just a few weeks ago.  Such a day deserves not to be forgotten!  People need to be aware that we're out there.  Although it's no longer as common as it was in my Dad's generation to force a child to use his or her right hand (we're actually pretty sure that my Dad is left-handed, but because he was pushed into right-handedness at such an age, we'll never be completely sure), the world still imposes right-handedness onto those of us who simply aren't all too often.  Many devices, for example, are constructed so as to be difficult for left-handed people to use with their naturally-dominant hands.  I remember being in elementary school, looking through the crafts box in vain, trying to locate one of the few "Lefty" scissors still in there, only to have to force my way through using the regular scissors to complete my project with less-than-stellar results.

Even today, when I go out to eat with a large group, I often make an effort to get one of the left-hand corner spaces at the table, so as to not bump elbows with a person eating right-handed to my left while I attempt to eat (my wife, happily, is left-handed as well, so we can still safely sit next to each other, provided that one of us has the necessary corner!).

I certainly don't want to make the case that left-handed people are oppressed in the same way that other minorities are oppressed (although O'Brian's somewhat tongue-in-cheek observations to this effect are quite interesting), but since we do have to make a not-insignificant number of sacrifices to live in a predominately right-handed world, I don't think it's asking too much to have the fact of left-handed accommodation recognized.

So, left-handed people of the world, unite!  This is your day!  More information (and a few links) can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Lefthanders_Day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

On Qualifications and Calling

When I heard of Internet Monk founder Michael Spencer's death from cancer this past April, I thought that the Internet Monk site would no longer be updated.  I'm pleased to see that others have taken up the mantle to continue his legacy of thoughtful reflection on theological matters.  Recently, I stumbled upon this piece, written by Jeff Dunn, detailing how God often chooses people who don't seem especially qualified to do God's work.

Of course, such an observation is nothing new.  I've certainly heard comments to this effect before.  But Dunn's piece is noteworthy for the care he takes to demonstrate this point with a multitude of examples throughout the Bible and in a great variety of "leadership" positions.

Consider, for example, this reflection on the calling of King David:
“I’m really sorry I let Saul become king,” the Lord said, and sent Samuel out to anoint a new person as king. This time God did the choosing. And once again, he passed over the most qualified candidates to select a boy whose own father didn’t even consider good enough to introduce to Samuel. He was the runt of the litter, a shepherd (which was a job on the level of trash collector today). Yet God thought he would make a good king and instructed Samuel to anoint him with oil and proclaim he would be king one day over all Israel.

And Dunn doesn't shy away from the "failures" of David's tenure as king, having already been so chosen by God:
And God’s man did a good job for the most part. Oh, there was that incident with Bathsheba and the subsequent cover-up that involved knocking off her husband. And there was the census thing that resulted in a plague that wiped out 70,000 people. Hey, everyone has their bad days, right? Yet God still considered David a man after his own heart. But from our viewpoint, David’s heart seems as far away from God’s heart as it can be. What is it that God sees that we don’t?

Now, I do hasten to note that we have other "good" kings in the Old Testament accounts who don't seem to have David's rather serious problems with adultery and murder (to say nothing of that census, which although the Bible is clear enough that it was undeniably disastrous, is somewhat less clear if David did it because God told him to or if Satan did!), but that changes little.  The Bible seems to gloss over these problems when it comes to giving it's opinion of how good a king David was.  "A man after God's own heart," we're often told.  That says it all, doesn't it?

One wonders, given this mountain of evidence that God chooses people without regard to what kinds of qualifications they've received, why we even bother with seminary education, to say nothing of the other kinds of institutions (many explicitly Christian) that exist to equip men and women of faith to do what (we claim?) God calls them to do.  This is hardly limited to any particular theological or ideological leaning, either.  It's not like "liberal" Christians have such schools while "conservative" ones don't.  There are options enough for all.  Are we hypocrites?

I don't think so.  To acknowledge that God sees beyond human vision to call (and equip!) people to do things for which we may not consider them qualified is hardly the same thing as suggesting that "qualified" people should be barred from doing God's work.  Indeed, there is plenty of work for all, and the Bible shows how God uses our experience and training to do God's work, as well.  For example, while Dunn is certainly right to point out Paul's ill-suitedness to Christian ministry on the basis of his former life (as Saul) persecuting them, Paul makes more than adequate use of his Pharisaic training to craft writings to the churches of his day that have blessed Christians through all the centuries since then.

Training for God's work remains important.  Still, it's probably a good thing that God does something "off the wall" every now and then, if only to remind us that God sees things in ways we can scarcely imagine!

Monday, August 09, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: 2 Corinthians 7-11

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through 2 Corinthians, chapters 7-11.


Chapter 7

  • It seems clear that, although Paul has been distressed by some of the issues he has been admonishing the Corinthians about throughout this letter, his relationship with them remains strong, and it remains important to him.  If there were criticisms before, they are balanced out by compliments here.
Chapter 8
  • Verses 1-9 - Of course, it all seems more than a little passive-aggressive when that buttering up is followed up so quickly by "see how generously these people, who are rather poor, have given.  Now I want to test to you to see how well you give!"
  • Verse 13-15 - Of course, it probably also seems passive-aggressive of me to suggest the obvious implications of this passage for how churches should give to their denominations today, but so be it.  In theory, denominational giving structures exist to fulfill this same purpose, so that poorer churches may have the same opportunities as wealthier ones.  Obviously, this does not pan out in reality as often as it ought to.  Maybe a wealthier church has doctrinal disagreements with the larger denomination.  But should the poorer churches suffer as a result?
  • Verse 18 (and 22) - Who is this "brother," and why doesn't Paul name him explicitly?1  The same questions apply to verse 22, which seems not to be the same unnamed "brother," but yet another one.
Chapter 9
  • Verses 1-5 - See my comments on chapter 8, verses 1-9.
Chapter 10
  • Verses 1-11 - Paul is apparently responding to charges of inconsistency (and perhaps cowardice!).
Chapter 11
  • It seems appropriate to link to Michael Card's "God's Own Fool" here (it's less than three minutes long, so go ahead and have a listen!).
  • Verses 32-33 - Paul seems to be referencing the events recorded in Acts 9:-23-25., but seems less eager to blame the Jews (as Luke did), instead referencing the civil authority of "the governor under King Aretas" (who, as father-in-law to Herod Antipas, apparently did hold power over the region including Damascus at that time2).

1F.F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Corinthians, (The New Century Bible Commentary) Eerdmans, 1971, p. 224, suggests that the traditional identification has been with Luke, but notes that the gospel with Luke's name has not yet been written, and there is no indication the Luke was famous for his evangelism at this point in time.
2See Bruce, pp. 244-245.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Transformers Then and Now: Brawn

The Legends class of figures has often been neglected by retailers.  This is more than a little unfortunate, since it has been a venue for reimagining some of the more obscure characters from the early days of Transformers history.  Cosmos and Warpath were both characters originally used in the 1985, but Brawn goes back to the very first series of Transformers toys from 1984, and the recent 2008 Legends version was the first new-mold use of that character since then (although the name can be argued to have been used in the interim--for what it's worth, I also consider the recent 2010 movie toy to be a different character).

Pictured on the left is the original 1984 toy, while the 2008 version is on the right.  As has been common with many of the "updated" versions of old characters in recent years, the 2008 version transforms into a somewhat different type of vehicle than the 1984 version--more Hummer-like than Jeep/Land Cruiser-fusion.  Even so, the color scheme helps create the basic feel that this indeed the same character (well, mostly.  It is a rather different kind of green).

One can easily see the effort that went into homaging various aspects of Brawn's 1984 toy in the 2008 version.  Not just in the coloration, but also in various molded details.  One significant difference between the toys is the design of the head.  Brawn's 1984 toy was, of course, originally created for the non-Transformers Microman line, and his Transformers character model was heavily modified for the cartoon and comic (as was the case with nearly all of those first couple of years' worth of toys).  Thus, the 1984 toy's head looks much less expressive than the version we came to know as Brawn in most of the fiction.  The 2008 toy attempts to capture the basic look of the character model, yet for some reason gave him a black face and white helmet, where the character model would have been more faithfully represented had they done the reverse.  Oh, well....

One other clear homage in the figure is in the vehicle mode, but it can't really be appreciated in the front-on shots above.  If you turn the 2008 version around, however, you can see that it was given a spare tire, much as the 1984 version has on top of the vehicle.  It's a small touch, to be sure, but I really do appreciate the effort that went into creating these updates.  I just wish that more stores carried them when they were being made.  Despite traveling to every Rite Aid (the only chain that was carrying Legends at this point in time) I could find in the area (I haven't kept count, but this is well over a dozen different stores), I never did find this toy on the shelves, and ultimately got it from eBay using some eBay Bucks I'd saved up.  I'd love it if Hasbro would just straight-out reissue this wave (as they've done for similar figures in the past.  Perhaps through Big Lots?), but I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

You Don't Have to Be "High Church" to Have a Liturgy

My wife got this from her PhD mentor, who reportedly said something to the effect of "...and evangelicals say they have no liturgy!" See for yourself.


"Sunday Morning" Movie Trailer

Did you watch it? No? Go back up and do so now. Go ahead. I'll wait.

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Done now? Good.

If you laughed, you did so because you know that what this video is talking about is true. These patterns exist in many "contemporary" worship gatherings today. These "patterns" are what a liturgy is. It's "how" these churches worship, and if one or more of these "patterns" are changed without warning, people notice. That's not to say that they'll always complain. Not all change is bad. But they generally will notice that the pattern--that is, their liturgy--is different.

Many Christians--not just those who worship in "contemporary" settings, but certainly including such worshipers--often argue that they don't have a liturgy. When they say this, they probably mean that they're not bound to a formalized set of worship instructions such as that found in, say, the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. But they do have a liturgy. All churches do. It doesn't have to be formalized by being written down. It just happens. People create patterns that reflect who they are as followers of God.

And there's nothing wrong with that. It's actually a good thing. But I also believe that Christians would benefit from becoming aware of just what their own patterns of worship--their liturgical practices--actually are. Because if they don't do it consciously, it will often happen only when someone stands up to complain "but we've never done it that way before!"

Monday, August 02, 2010

The New Testament in a Year: 2 Corinthians 2-6

For my own personal study, I am using a combination of tools. These include listening to an audio version of the Bible (TNIV) and a series of commentaries in addition to the text itself. I recognize that not everyone will have access to these materials. I can at least provide a link to the Biblical text itself. For this purpose, I've found that BibleGateway.com is a very useful tool. Not only does it include the TNIV, which enables me to link to the same text as what I'm listening to with the audio version, but one can easily switch to another translation (if one so desires) simply by using the drop-down menus. I hope that this is helpful.

This week, I am working through 2 Corinthians, chapters 2-6.


Chapter 2

  • Verse 1 - I guess this goes to show how having access to multiple commentators can be useful.  I was using Fee for 1 Corinthians, who seems to argue that the visit to Macedonia planned by Paul at the end of that letter is to be connected to the visit Paul references having failed to make in chapter one of this letter.  However, Bruce argues differently.  Since no earlier "painful visit" seems to be referenced in 1 Corinthians, and this verse clearly seems to imply that Paul has already had such a "painful visit" with them prior to writing this letter, he argues that the "painful visit" must have taken place between that letter and this one.1  This seems to throw into question whether or not Paul successfully made the visit he planned at the end of 1 Corinthians.  Perhaps he did?
  • Verses 5-8 - I wonder what the particular offender (that Paul seems to be writing about) did.  Bruce notes a traditional interpretation identifying this person with the one engaged in a relationship with his own stepmother from 1 Corinthians2, but this cannot be anything more than speculative.
Chapter 3
  • Verses 7-18 - The story Paul alludes to here (re: Moses' radiant face) comes from Exodus 34:29-35.
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
  • Verses 1-5 - I am reminded that Paul was, by profession, a tent-maker. If he was a ship-builder, would he have used an analogy about boats, instead?
  • Verse 10 - This bit about judgment, and everyone "receiv[ing] what is due them" seems at odds with the gospel of grace as we usually understand it from Paul.
  • Verse 16-21 - This part about being "ambassadors," engaging in a "ministry of reconciliation" is one of my favorites, but I have to confess that I am nowhere near as good at reconciliation as I'd like.  Perhaps that's normal, but I don't really want to use that as an excuse, either.
Chapter 6
  • Verses 3-10 - Something about this passage reminds me about 1 Corinthians 9:1-23, where Paul asserted that he wasn't making demands (that he had every right to make!) in order to win as many people for Christ as he could.
  • Verse 14 - I've often seen this verse used specifically in the context of marriage (that is to say, "Christians shouldn't marry non-Christians").  While I believe that this is a faithful application of this passage, it seems to me that Paul is writing more expansively than just about marriage here.  That said, what limits should we set?  It seems clear from other parts of Paul's writings (1 Corinthians 5:10, for example) that he isn't telling believers not to associate with non-believers at all.  So, what constitutes being "yoked together"? (Note that the TNIV lacks the feel of "unequally" yoked that the Greek seems to intend.3  I'm not at all sure why that part's left out.) 

1F.F. Bruce, 1 & 2 Corinthians, (The New Century Bible Commentary) Eerdmans, 1971, p. 183.
2Bruce, pp. 184-185.
3See Bruce, p. 214.


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