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I Don’t Go in for Hierarchy

June 29, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been reading the first few chapters of Touching Heaven the last few days. There’s something in it that sticks in my craw.

In a word, it’s hierarchy.

So, first, some context: the book is about Orthodox Christianity, written by a guy who grew up Protestant and later (I assume) converted to Orthodoxy, spent some time with some Russian monks. A lot of what he says is good to my ear: the role of mystery, the way the liturgy makes faith tangible, the pitfalls of a faith that exists only in the vacuum of the mind or the pages of books, the startling experience of God in one’s practice. I like that he puts more importance on silently reciting the Jesus prayer while gardening than on the attempt to climb the rungs of church leadership.

The thing I get stuck on is Read more…

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Self-assertion Started It

June 29, 2012 Leave a comment

“Genesis… contains two major parts: the primeval history… which tells how human self-assertion brought the world to the brink of destruction; and the history of Israel’s ancestors” (The Oxford Study Bible, page 11).

Human self-assertion.

That is an interesting way to put it – and by far the most non-judgmental way I think I’ve ever heard to frame these first stories. Human self-assertion. To assert oneself isn’t inherently evil or wrong, and yet to do it in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons… the way we’ve been dealing with the environment for the last seventy-five years, and with natural resources since the whole colonial era, comes to mind. Read more…

Ask Me if I Care

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

“The Apocalyptic Vision” by Martha Himmelfarb (The Oxford Study Bible, pages 181-198): I don’t know why I  should believe any of it. Or care.

See, it’s this kind of thing: “Also, the falling axe, flowing blood, and festive eating would have produced that mixture of terror and ecstasy humans associate with experiences of the holy” (“Relationship to God” by Byron Shafer, The Oxford Study Bible, page 192).

So detached, it’s holier than thou. Do you believe this stuff or not; and if not, why are you writing about it?

It’s Personal

January 28, 2012 Leave a comment

“When we ask, ‘Is God a person or is God not a person,’ we get lost. In fact, God is not a person, and God is not a non-person. There is a German theologian who expresses this very beautifully: ‘God is not a person, but not less than a person’ ” (Going Home, page 12).

In the unraveling of my worldview, I found this question to be one of the principal threads, one on which the whole tapestry hung. Read more…

Life Unknown

January 26, 2012 Leave a comment

“Corporate and individual human life was lived in an environment affected by the character and conduct, the actions and reactions of these other personal beings. It was important to be informed about what they had to do with what was happening to a person or a nation… At times it was needful to communicate with them and seek to influence their purpose and power” (The Oxford Study Bible, page 165).

Other personal beings: “gods and spirits and demons” (164). Read more…

Not a Fib

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment

“The divine name that is explicitly associated with [the Abrahamic covenant] is ‘êl šadday. Its sign is the circumcision” (The Oxford Study Bible, page 154).

Does not the word Shaddai mean God’s breast? How strange that God would give Abraham this explicitly feminine name to call her, and then ask him to respond with an explicitly masculine sign. I don’t know, maybe not so strange. Read more…

Sterile Gloves

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t like it when people write about the gods and myths of this or that time and place with a tone of superiority, intellectual distance and essential disbelief. Why should I trust anything they have to say? They’re trying to hand me something while refusing to touch it. I don’t need their sterile gloves.