CBS News reported yesterday that a full Torah scroll dating back to 1150 AD was discovered in an Italian library recently. You can read the article here. This should prove to be an interesting find or at least it will afford some chap somewhere adequate material for doctoral research.
Here at The Pannenberg Circle we have been reading through Stanley Hauerwas's The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer on Christian Ethics. An excellent book thus far. Several topics have emerged as points of discussion and even disagreement between us on "The Forum" (here). One such topic is the role of faith and politics. Below we've include a brief clip by James K. A. Smith from Calvin College on his understanding of the relation between faith and politics. This is a pertinent and relevant topic and we'd love to hear your thoughts? Conversation is needed because of the complexities of the issues that arise from such a topic and our pathetic ability to think Christianly through all the ins and outs, pros and cons.
So, I realize that we usually post a "controversial" video on Monday for you to mull over and comment on at will. It’s not Monday but alas, I will post a video anyway. The video that I would like to bring to your attention was actually posted by Andy Naselli at his blog which you can access here. He includes a concise discussion and summary of a chapter written from a book--I highly recommend--which you can purchase here. The following video is essentially the author presenting some of the major ideas from chapter 8 of the book. I present the video to you here because I thoroughly enjoyed the video and you may not be a reader of Naselli's blog and therefore would possibly not have been informed of the video as of yet. Enjoy and please feel free to comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Below I've posted what I offered at Baccalaureate as some lessons I've learned or I'm learning from my time
The task I’ve been given is to relay a lesson learned while during my time here at Central. However, I find it difficult to speak of a single lesson learned, as if we can learn a lesson apart from other lessons, experiences, and even failures. Life is too complex and this season in mine is no exception. Nevertheless, I’ll attempt to briefly offer several lessons that I’ve learned and continue to learn.
First, I’ve come to see the mundane nature of our daily existence differently. We all aspire, if we’re honest, in some measure, to achieve and do great things. However, life quickly has a way of knocking such thoughts from our heads. The majority of us will live “boring” and “average” lives. Yet, within the mediocrity of daily existence lays a divine quality that bears cosmic significance. All of life that is lived to God and in imitation of him in Christ helps to further his creational and redemptive agenda in this world; no matter if its cleaning toilets or managing a fortune 500 company, working in the nursery or preaching on Sunday.
Second, I’ve been taught by the laments of the Old Testament to see that in a world east of Eden, where death and evil seem so dominant, faith at times is shrouded in doubt. Whether it is doubt that arises from profound suffering as in Lamentations or the seeming absurdity of life related in Ecclesiastes. In each case, a faithful hope in and reverence for God emerges from under the shroud of doubts and questions attendant with a marred existence.
Third, I’m also learning that true power comes not in the form of physical prowess, superior rhetoric, economic affluence, or military might; but rather, it comes in humility and weakness. The pseudo concept of power dominant in our culture from the liberal to the conservative is fundamentally oriented toward self gratification and self interest through either the overt or the subtle exploitation of others. In contrast, true power or we could say divine power is fundamentally oriented toward the other through humble and self-sacrificial service. This is most readily seen in Jesus “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross.”
Lastly, it would be remiss of me if I did not relay that I’m learning, however reluctantly, that I need others. I need a community in order to live this life well. For that reason, I would like to offer thanks to those who have most helped me through this particular season. First, I thank God who through his continual mercies allows me to continue despite my egregious and recurrent failures.
I thank my wife, who has offered me love and support without which this season would’ve undoubtedly been more difficult and less enjoyable.
I thank my parents for their self-sacrificial support and the ceaseless prayers they have offered for me from before my birth, during the times when I seemed the furthest thing from a loving son, and even now when I may seem little improved.
I want to thank my wife’s parents for their loving generosity and caring hospitality that have made their home a needed respite.
I want to thank my friends Jon and Wes with whom I’ve cut grass, read thousands of pages aloud, engaged in tomfoolery, and with whom I’ve been able to express my thoughts, frustrations, and doubts freely.
Lastly, I would like to thank all those from the seminary and this church who have tolerated me and have aided me in many and varied ways.
On Monday I was struck with a thought which, while basic, uncovers the impetus for every choice I make in my day-to-day routine: life is nothing more than an enactment of one of two storylines, one of two scripts.
(1) Script 1:
(a) Director: Adam
(b) Main character: me
(c) Plot summary: life ultimately revolves around myself. Consequently, every decision I make should aim to enhance my reputation, promote my causes, protect my honor, and satisfy the longings of my heart. Anything or anyone which/who compromises or attempts to thwart the agenda of self must be discharged.
(2) Script 2:
(b) Director: Jesus
(c) Main character: Jesus
(d) Plot summary: life ultimately revolves around him for whom I was made. Consequently, every decision I make should aim to enhance his reputation, promote his causes, advance his renown, and embody the longings of his heart. Anything or anyone which/who compromises or attempts to thwart the agenda of self must be realigned (so it fits life's aim) or discharged.
This concept of "life being an enactment of a script" isn't original. In Romans 5, Paul has the audacity to to locate all of humanity in one of two camps, "in Adam" or "in Christ." Further, we find in Romans 5-6 that the code of ethics--the master story, the "way of being"--which the two camps endorse are fundamentally, irreconcilably at odds. To be "in Adam" is to follow Script 1; to be "in Christ" is to follow Script 2.
And this is what struck me: because Jesus is the author and director of my story, and because I've already begun to participate in his "way of being" by being buried with him in baptism and raised to new life, there are certain ways of thinking, ways of talking, and ways of acting which are henceforth impossible in that they're incommensurate with my script.
Life's hard. Granted. But at the end of the day it really isn't all that complicated. We know how this is supposed to go down. The only question is: will we read from the right script or not? Yes, it's going to mean getting stepped on, mistreated, taken for granted, abused, maybe killed. But it also means we get to keep pretty sweet company. And it stands to reason that we'll want to be on the Author's side of the battle lines when the story which is this crazy, beautiful world comes to its conclusion...which, as it turns out, is itself a beginning.
They say that public confession is good for the soul, so here goes: "My name is Wesley Davey, and I'm a fan of Harry Potter." I made the mistake of reading The Sorcerer's Stone mid-way through the final semester of my MDiv (that's right...with all my project due-dates fast approaching) and then proceeded to read the next six books within a 2-3 month span. During that time-frame I actually had a dream in which I successfully produced a patronus charm. That last remark probably should've taken the form of a public confession too.
Yet, while I love the story and think that it highlights uniquely Christian themes and ideals at points, my praise is not unreserved. This semester my friend Peter and I re-watched the HP movies and I had occasion to think through the character of the story's most enigmatic and surprising figure: Severus Snape. Rowling leaves the reader guessing and "double-guessing" himself/herself throughout the novels as to the true allegiance of Snape. Is he a hero posing as a villain or a villain posing as a hero? Only in the end do we discover the former to be the case: he parades as a force of evil in order to protect Harry's life. And he goes so far as to sacrifice his own life in order to preserve Harry's. (As an aside, it's interesting that the metanarrative of HP is framed by sacrificial death which results in the preservation of Harry's life--first Lilly's, Harry's mother, and then Snape's, Harry's chief antagonist throughout the novels). But here's the root problem: Snape's ethics are consequentialistic and therefore un-Christian. In other words, his life is governed by the principle "the end justifies the means." Therefore, he may act evil, or at least tolerate evil which he could've prevented, as long as it brings about the greatest amount of good.
So what is the basis for Christian ethics? Hauerwas would put it this way: "The Christian community is formed by the conviction that the story of Christ is a truthful account of our existence, and thus the central task of Christ's church is to witness to the kind of social life possible for those formed by that story." Jesus's narrative, in other words, is to be our narrative. Further, as Hauerwas goes on to say, what we do (that is, our ethic particularly) is indelibly shaped by what it is we want to become--or, in our case, who it is we want to become like. Consequentialist ethics seems to place itself in the position of divine by attempting to engineer and/or micro-manage events in order to arrive at a favorable outcome. But how do I know what's the most "favorable" outcome--much less whether or not all of my engineering will actually bring it about? And how do I define "favorable" in the first place--"favorable" with regard to what? My response in every situation must therefore be an outworking of my ambition to be fashioned in the likeness of Jesus. I cannot tolerate evil on account of what I perceive to be the "greater good."
They say that public confession is good for the soul, so here goes: "My name is Wesley Davey, and while I am a fan of Harry Potter overall, I reject Snape's approach to ethics."
Since I’ve had some extra time recently, I picked back up James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, the first volume of "Cultural Liturgies" and finally finished it. It has been a challenge to read, but also an enjoyment. It awakened me to new thoughts and indeed new practices, but it also confirmed certain thoughts on baptism, the Eucharist, and the importance of form and embodiment in worship. He closes out the volume with a chapter on Christian education, particularly that of a Christian university. He critiques the dominant mode and goal of Christian university education (i.e., how to live in the world and the marketplace from a “Christian perspective”) with these words:
What’s the alternative? If Christian education is not merely about acquiring a Christian perspective or a Christian worldview, what is its goal? Its goal, I’m suggesting, is the same as the goal of Christian worship: to form radical disciples of Jesus and citizens of the baptismal city [[fyi, I love that phrase]] who, communally, take up the creational task of being God’s image bearers, unfolding the cultural possibilities latent in creation--but doing so as empowered by the Spirit, following the example of Jesus’s cruciform cultural labor. If the goal of Christian worship and discipleship is the formation of a peculiar people, then the goal of Christian education should be the same. If something like Christian universities are to exist, they should be configured as extensions of the mission of the church—as chapels that extend and amplify what’s happening at the heart of the cathedral, at the altar of Christian worship. In short, the task of Christian education needs to be reconnected to the thick practices of the church.
The creational, trinitarian, and cruciform nature of the cultural shaping that takes place in the baptismal city, I believe are spot on. I found particularly compelling his nuance of cruciformity as "cultural labor." A labor that is formed by the "thick practices of the church."
Looking forward to starting sometime this summer Smith's second volume in "Cultural Liturgies" Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works.