Tuesday, March 30, 2010

the danger of a single story

Relating to the question of Who's Not Here? (see below) here's a link to a very challenging address given by Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie.  Get ready for 19 minutes that will change the way you think about the rest of the world!

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html

Sunday, March 28, 2010

nine

That's right.  We have a nine-year-old.  Crazy how time flies.

Eliana has been growing her hair out for quite some time now, hoping to donate it to 'Locks of Love.'  Well, last week we chopped off 10 inches!  We're so proud of her willingness to share her long, beautiful hair with a child who needs it.  Here's the before (taken back in October) and after (with Dad and Easton) ...
Maybe it's just me, but her hair cut seemed to launch her into the next level of maturity!  She is taking responsibility for her own schedule, helping out cheerfully at home, and exercising a lot of creativity with her friends.  Eliana continues to be an avid reader, excels in school, and is growing in her faith.She's been working on a fun project with a neighbor up the street since October.  They adapted a play from a magazine, typed it all out, staged it, assigned roles to the other neighbor kids, and have been having practices twice a week since January with virtually no adult involvement.  They're hoping to perform the play during spring break and use the proceeds to donate to a charity.  It's been a great opportunity for her to learn about leadership and teamwork.  We're so thankful that God entrusted her to us!
 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

who's not here?

It's on my mind almost any time I walk into church, or a classroom or a conference like ETS.  I hadn't put it into words, though, until just a few days ago.  Ken Baker asked this question in his thought-provoking session on cultural diversity in missions at ETS.  Who's not here?

I've already mentioned the fact that ETS is dominated by white men.  Their presence is not a bad thing, but the list of who's not here is rather longAre there vibes or assumptions or invisible walls keeping others away?  There are, of course, many evangelicals who believe that Bible teaching is a role reserved for men.  That accounts for the lack of women.  But why not black men? asian men? latino men?  Is the notion of an academic society too thoroughly western?  Perhaps.

I was delighted to find in my intital seminary classes that there was no majority.  Race, gender, age, denominational background, economic class ... our classrooms were a total mix.  Learning is rich in such an environment.  (It's hard for a Reformed student to build a straw Arminian and knock it down in class when he's sitting beside one!)  I have found, however, that this does not hold true for upper level classes (Hebrew Exegesis, for example).  Things are looking white, white, white (and in some classes male, male, male).  It's not as though I wish there were fewer white men in my classes, it's just that my list of who's not here grows longer.  And why does it matter?  Because if we only listen to ourselves our theology will be lopsided, no matter how hard we try to keep our eyes fully open to Scripture.  We need each other - brothers and sisters of other races and backgrounds - to help us understand the full message of Christ for the church.

According to Rev 7:9, we will finally be able to stop asking this question around the throne of God.  Then, finally, all nations will be represented.  But on this side of eternity, why do we keep to our own kind?  Ken suspects that we carry around in our hearts the belief that people who are not like us don't have anything to offer that we needOuch.  So look around and ask yourself, who's not here?  Because what - or who - you don't know can hurt you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

kids ask the best questions!

A couple of friends at church have asked me to help them answer their kids' most profound theological questions.  Canaan asked a great one last week about the 10 plagues in Egypt.  Here's her question and my answer:

"Why do we not have those big miracles around here anymore?"

When God was delivering his people from Egypt he had to reveal himself powerfully so that they would know who he was, and that his power was greater than the Egyptian ‘gods’. It was an important time where God was setting Israel apart as his people, and the great signs he performed were something that they would always be able to look back to so that they would never forget that he had chosen them in a special way. (You could read the first several chapters of Deuteronomy together as an example of how important the exodus was in setting Israel apart as God’s people.) Some of the prophets performed mighty signs later (like Elijah and Elisha) to remind Israel that Yahweh was still their God. And when Jesus came he did signs to show us that he was Yahweh himself. He was in a way leading God’s people out of slavery a second time. This time, instead of bondage to Pharaoh, it was bondage to sin. Now we look back at his miracles as the signs that show us who he is and how he chose us to be his special people.
So, while there are sometimes miracles today, they don’t tend to be as huge as those told in Exodus and in the Gospels because God has already revealed himself as the deliverer and savior of the whole world. We have his Word to remind us of that, and he promises that there will once again be great signs when he returns to set up his kingdom on earth. But since he’s not revealing himself in a new way, signs are not necessary.

If your child is asking you questions and you're not sure how to answer, feel free to email me and I'll do my best!

Southeastern Regional ETS Meeting

This past weekend I participated in the Evangelical Theological Society's meetings for our region.  I rode down with a couple of gals from school and we had a great time getting to know one another.  For the first time I presented a paper during one of the parallel sessions.  There were 67 such papers presented, 10 at a time in different rooms.  Only four of the presenters were women.

My paper was entitled, "Eyes Besmeared: Jesus' Re-enactment of Isaiah's Mission in John 9."  I enjoyed reading it and fielding questions and feedback afterwards from the 9 brave souls who attended my session.  (Average attendance ranged from 3 to 20 or so for each paper).  I attended papers on a wide range of topics including Greek Grammar, Ethnic Diversity in Mission Leadership, Soul Care of Widows, and the Use of Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4.  Conferences such as this one are a great way to see what kind of scholarship is happening at other institutions in the area, to meet others who are on a similar journey and to sharpen each other's skills.

I'm still hoping to publish my paper in an academic journal, so I'll wait to share more details.  If you'd like to read it, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to send you a copy.

Monday, March 15, 2010

a budding philosopher?

Easton is approaching 21 months old, but his only words so far are 'Dada', 'Mama', Emma, and (if we ask him to say it) 'hot'.  I suppose we could be worried (since we've met many kids his age who can say dozens of words by now), but his comprehension is great, and he communicates very effectively by pointing and using a system of grunts that we suspect is highly developed (think: tonal language). :)

Over the weekend I was reading Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in This Text? I was startled to find the following discussion of Plato's Cratylus, a dialogue on language theory.  Bear with me:

"Cratylus [one of the characters in the dialogue] does not really appear to believe what we might call the 'imitation theory' of meaning.  He follows Herclitus's notion that 'all is flux' and concludes that one ought not to say anything but only point with one's finger, since no true statement can be made about what is constantly changing." (17, emphasis mine)

So you see that we have confirmation of our son's brilliance.  His apparent lack of verbal skills are a actually a deliberate attempt to represent postmodern theories of language.  Who could have guessed?!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Jesus and superman

Imagine you are driving along one day on the freeway when just ahead of you a driver loses control.  You brake and swerve to miss her as the car spins off the side of the road, flips and lands upside down.  In the blurr of the moment you pull over, put on your emergency lights and run back to help.  What you find is terrifying.  The woman is seatbelted in her seat, suspended upside-down, knocked unconcious, and her door is jammed shut.  Just when you start to panic you hear something.  Out of nowhere a strong man appears, dressed in blue spandex with a flowing red cape.  A great big letter S is stamped on his chest.  In no time at all he lifts the car and sets it back on its tires, wrenches the door off its hinges, snaps the seatbelt with his bare hands and gingerly lifts the woman out into the fresh air.  He nods to you, winks, and then leaps over the trees out of sight in a single bound, headed in the direction of the hospital, with the woman still in his strong arms.

Shortly afterwards, emergency vehicles arrive with the media close behind.  You find yourself suddenly in the center of a major investigation, peppered with questions from reporters, EMT's, and police officers.  "Tell us again," they insist.  "Who was the man who took the woman away?" 

"I told you already.  It was Superman!" 
Another volley of questions: "But how do you KNOW it was Superman?"
     "Did he introduce himself to you?" 
          "Did you actually hear him say his name?" 
You feel rather confused.  "There was no time for introductions.  He didn't need to introduce himself.  It was obvious.  He was wearing what Superman wears!" 
"But it could have been an imposter," they insist. "Maybe he wanted you to THINK he was Superman, but he really wasn't." 
"But he appeared out of nowhere," you remind them. "And he was stronger than any ordinary man, and I saw him leap over those trees!"  To your utter amazement they refuse to write in the police report that Superman was present at the scene, citing 'lack of evidence.'

Perhaps it's obvious to you by now where I am going with this.  As I've met with my JW friends to study the Bible they continue to insist that Jesus could not have been Almighty God because he never identified himself in such a way.  "If it was so vitally important that we believe in the Trinity," they tell me. "Then the Bible would have made it much more clear.  As it is, the Bible says NOTHING to prove that Jesus and Jehovah are the same God."  The more I've thought about this and studied it, the more I'm struck by the ways Scripture 'nods and winks' at us as it relates the ways in which Jesus came dressed in Yahweh's clothes and doing Yahweh's tasks.  No, he didn't make a public announcement about his true identity.  That would have cut short his ministry unnecessarily.  Instead, he revealed his identity through parables and actions so that those with 'eyes to see' would have no doubt who he was, and those who were blinded by unbelief would be unable to pin him down.

There is a widespread misconception about Jesus that he taught using stories because that way people would really understand him.  But in Mark 4:9-12 Jesus tells his disciples point blank that his parables are meant to veil his message from the unbelieving.  (See also John 9:35-41; 10:22-39; 12:37-41)  We must pray that the One who opens the eyes of the blind will open the eyes of our hearts as well.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dr. Suess!

Dr. Suess' birthday was celebrated in classrooms all across America yesterday, and we had a little party of our own featuring green eggs for after-school snack.  All three kiddos liked them.  Don't let Eliana fool you!


While Green Eggs and Ham is more widely known, my favorite story of all is The Zax.  I think every church committee and elder board should read it at least once.  A lot more would get done if they did!  In case you're not familiar with The Zax, here's a video-version on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfI9e4BX0lU&feature=related.  It's just over 3 minutes long.  Enjoy!