book project update

Well, another chapter finished (rough though it is) for my present book project. This one was a journey through Scripture, giving an orientation of liberation from key Biblical passages. Word count is 11339 words.   It’s a first draft, so editing is definitely in order for length, style, and formatting/citation.

That puts me at 58944 words, five chapters left to write.  Two chapters have to wait until at least late November, unless I can get the new books by Moltmann and Coakler earlier.  The conclusion will likely have to wait even longer, as its unseemly to conclude until I’ve written that which needs concluded. I might learn something new and adjust my thoughts after all!  So, that leaves me with a couple of chapters on my plate, an early church study and a contemporary practioner study.

February looms.

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politicizing tragedy

The trouble with politicizing is not that issues should go unaddressed. Rather, the trouble with politicizing is that the issues usually addressed are 1) not the core issue really at hand 2)tends to both confirm the speakers pre-established ideas and seek more authoritarian power for the people they support.

Politicizing is de-humanizing, because it makes a real person with real problems in a real tragedy that caused real pain to many into yet more political theater.

The guy was emotionally damaged, angry, alone, stewing in his frustrations. The media attention on every other shooting provided him some hope for identity. People care about his name because of the violence. Herostratus in contemporary expression.

Are there issues to address? Yes. What about the breakdown in his family life that left him isolated? What about the absence of community in his life? What about the rhetoric about the evils of religion (Christianity especially), which became the target of his rage? What about the divisive rhetoric that played into his increasing isolation, radicalizing him and suffocating him at the same time so that he embraced death as his only path to meaning?

Those are a lot more complex issues and less easily legislated and also don’t give power to people who don’t care about real loss or real suffering but just want to maximize their own sense of moral superiority on a narrow set of issues they feel self-righteous about.

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Looking at the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 for my writing project. A very Old Testament sort of narrative. Tell a lie, die. The Holy Spirit doesn’t mess around. We always hear people saying they want more of the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure they’ve factored in all the Biblical stories…

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“I admonish you… that amid the mundane cares of this world you not neglect the acquisition of many books, in which you may understand and learn something greater and better than is written here concerning God, your Creator, through the teaching of the most blessed doctors.”

~Dhuoda, in a letter to her son William, in the year 841.

Great advice!

My mom encouraged  (and encourages!) much the same thing.

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The Spirit of Holiness intro

Doc Holliday: What did you ever want?
Wyatt Earp: Just to live a normal life.
Doc Holliday: There’s no normal life, Wyatt, it’s just life.
Get on with it.
Wyatt Earp: Don’t know how.

A few lines from near the end of the movie Tombstone, a curious choice for a post about holiness, I know. index Yet… as I start looking more at Everett Lewis Cattell’s little book The Spirit of Holiness, that’s the quote that came to mind.

Cattell was a missionary in India during the middle decades of last century.  His time in India pulled him out of denominational boundaries–as missionary work often does–to engage people with the message of Christ, finding co-workers from various backgrounds and traditions.  This introduction to theological diversity pushed him to explore Scripture more, to look at the fundamental truths rather than commonly accepted shibboleths.

In light of this, and his continued wrestling with the work of God in his own life and work, he sought to understand the depths of the spiritual life, to find what holiness really is.
We often see holiness as the impossible dream, or the ever present judge of our seemingly persistent inadequacies. Holiness is often tied to a particular place, building, grove, profession.

We other holiness to be something apart from us, something against us. Or we institutionalize and domesticate holiness, making it a synonym for a particularly rigid religiosity. Stern expressions, textured robes, incense rising, words ponderously intoned.

The Spirit is none of those things. God was not, we might rephrase the line from 1 Kings, in the robes, God was not in the altar, God was not in the legalism, God was not in the blue blazer and tan slacks. The Spirit moves like the wind, water flowing, fire blazing. God is not contained by a temple or building or boundaries, as if people were lord of the Lord.

The Spirit is revealed as the Holy Spirit, and so holiness is tied to this work of the Spirit.
Which brings me back to that quote from the famous theologian Doc Holliday, “There’s no normal life. It’s just life. Get on with it.”

In his introduction, his setup to all that follows that reflects his long exploration, Everett CattellCattell writes, “I am impressed from study that life in the Spirit is hard to express, just because it is life.”

The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of life. Holiness is life in full, a whole life, being fully alive in a way that resonates with the creator of all of life. This is a celebratory life, a hope-filled life, a life of patience, and kindness, and generosity. It is the life of God expressed in and through us in the unique ways God has made us.

How do we find language for this? Maybe we don’t. Maybe we can’t reign it in or define it down to encapsulate it onto an easily memorized mantra. The work of holiness is the experience of being enlivened, becoming in full.

Many ask, “How should we be holy?” “There is no separate holiness,” might be the best answer, “it’s just life. Get on with it.”


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the liberative path of the cross

A little taste of what I’m writing these days:

The cross is a definitive call to reject the patterns of identity formation offered by the various systems in an environment. This is rightly understood as a way of death, rejecting the systems entails a rejection by the systems who seek to preserve and replicate their fundamental place in a society. The resurrection is the promise that rejecting such patterns will result in an even fuller life. Liberation of the oppressor comes through the way of the cross but promises a new story in light of the resurrection. Which brings us back to Moltmann’s admonition not to dwell on what people lose but what people gain. We let go patterns and systems of death and dissolution because we do not need their promises of identity or security. We are freed from such anonymizing demands. Radical trust in God leads to radical realignment with the systems, embedded in them with a cohesive narrative of the Spirit’s transformative power.

I’m about 25 pages into a look at various Scripture passages to see how they develop a theme of liberation of the oppressor. I’m arguing there’s a cohesive narrative and theme throughout Scripture on this, one that primarily is about letting go other forms of definition and finding our idenity in God, which brings freedom because by being free in God we become truly free to be who we are made to be in community with others who are free to who God has made them to be.   I hear a lot of critiques about theology texts, that they don’t engage Scripture.  I find engaging Scripture to be a key element to what I’m trying to do.

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Writing task of the day: liberation of the oppressor in light of Luke 22-23.

It’s a confrontation between God and human systems.

The cross is an expression of obedience and trust, both of Jesus and then by those who trust in this obedience for their own salvation. Whole trust in God that resists being co-opted by the systems of this world despite their claims for absolute authority and meaning.[1] As this is a pattern established by both the writings and the prophets of the Jewish Scriptures as well as in the ministry and teachings of Jesus, the Gospels are not simply passion narratives with extended introductions. What we see in the whole of the Gospels is a coherent expression of not only the solution to the crisis but also a living example of what it means to live this out in real contexts among real stories. It is the culmination of the whole narrative of Scripture thus far. The cross, then, is the end point, the fully exposed confrontation that exists throughout the ministry of Jesus, insisting on the ultimacy of God’s lordship across personal, social, and societal systems.

[1] This can be seen as a bookend to the temptation in the wilderness, where Jesus resisted the claimed benefits for the sake of sole allegiance to the Father. In the arrest and trial he faces the counterpart to the ways sin and systems work: they first offer the promise of benefits and then, if resisted, turn to threats. If a person does not give into their apparent goodness, they will be cowed by their power.

It’s always nice to risk an interpretation and find an expert there waiting for me.  After writing this, I had a peek a commentary to see if I was on track.

Joel Green, in his commentary on Luke 22 writes,

“Here resides the great irony of the conflict that weaves its way through the Third Gospel and reaches its climax in the Lukan passion narrative: Those who oppose Jesus believe themselves to be serving God, yet unwittingly serve a diabolic aim… Throughout his ministry, Jesus has been involved in a war of interpretation: Who understands and serves the divine aim, really? Who interprets and embodies the divine word, really? Because both Jerusalem authorities and Jesus see themselves as acting on behalf of the divine will, the acitions that unfold in chs. 22-23 are indeed tragic. They are, nonetheless, the fullest manifestation of the competing aims at work in the Gospel narrative, previously seen best in the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (4:1-13).”

My path of writing this present chapter on the narrative of Scripture involves creative exploration, but I’m very happy to see I’m ultimately not original. Gives me confidence as I press on.  I’d also add that the contrast also involves Rome and the zealots, each of which are offering their own interpretation of the divine will.


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Writing this morning: “If a person does not give into their apparent goodness, they will be cowed by their power.”  Oddly struck by the irony of the verb “cowed”.  I had to look it up to confirm the spelling.

Definition: “cause (someone) to submit to one’s wishes by intimidation.”



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From Wikipedia:

“That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal.– as recounted by Aristotle, Physics VI:9, 239b10

Suppose Homer wants to catch a stationary bus. Before he can get there, he must get halfway there. Before he can get halfway there, he must get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a quarter, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on.

This description requires one to complete an infinite number of tasks, which Zeno maintains is an impossibility.”

Clearly, Zeno never moved to a new house.

Moving from the truck is a big step, and it’s an infinite number of increasingly smaller steps to actually get settled. One can move a fridge and a couch in, even get the entertainment system set up.  But, there’s always that next box, that cabinet that needs the special screws that are in some other box, those books you knew you had but aren’t in any of the dozen boxes that you were sure they were in.  There’s always yet another thing to do, unpack, arrange. Infinitely.

Ergo (a Greek word meaning absolute exasperation), one is never really moved in.  One just moves to the next place starting the sequence over again.

Hell is going to be a place where you move in for a couple weeks, then have to move again.

Heaven is where they pack up all your stuff with wonderful care, and arrange it just right before you arrive, pictures on the walls, shelves attached and assembled. The only things lost in the move? Those boxes of random things that have been in the garage for three years and you don’t even remember you had.

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