August 31, 2010

Why did Paul write Romans?

My answer, in 2 paragraphs, an exercise suggested by Brian LePort:

After nearly a decade of apostle-ing churches, having founded at least ten to that point, Paul had developed a pretty good working idea of what kinds of problems young churches would deal with - especially problems between Jewish and Gentile believers in those churches.  But five years after the Emperor Claudius kicked all the Jews out of Rome, he was poisoned and died.  Hearing that news, late in 54 AD, Paul was finally able to put Italy into his own travel plans.  Postponing his impending trips to Corinth and Judea, Paul went as far as Dyrrachium, founding a church there as a mid-way rest stop for the future, and for any stragglers among his few dozen friends who were moving to Rome (see Rom.16).

Twenty-nine months (or so) after Claudius died, Paul still seemed no closer to visiting Rome, with his hands full in Corinth/Cenchrea.  However, Paul knew many other Jewish-Italian believers (converted at or since Pentecost, like Priscilla & Aquilla) would have moved back to Rome, by that time.  Feeling responsible for the 30 to 40 (or more) saints he'd sent helped encourage to move there, and knowing how many conflicts they might be having with Rome's returning christians, Paul poured his heart into one tremendous effort to get Rome's believers to live at peace with one another, in the Lord.  The letter was sent around the turn of spring, 57 AD.

That's my 2 paragraph explanation as to why Paul wrote Romans.

Now I'll add two paragraphs of commentary.

That story doesn't only explain why Paul wrote Romans, it also explains why Romans came out the way it did.  Paul wasn't trying to be systematic.  He was just trying to communicate well to a large group with very diverse perspectives, in order to help mediate between close friends and virtual enemies.  Paul was trying to phrase things helpfully for some who may have been more familiar with James' epistle & ministry, and for others who likely preferred the language of Galatians.

But in all that, Paul's motive wasn't to craft some ideal theoretical treatise for unity.  He was engaging very practical concerns, among both groups, trying to challenge and honor both groups, and his motive at that time was simply to build common ground among these particular Jews and Gentiles whose particular conflicts and impasses had in fact - to that point - prevented them from standing together as one body, one church.

August 30, 2010

The Movement of God - 12

With the exile from Eden, a new kind of movement began on the Earth.  Wandering.  Homelessness.  This was NOT how God had ideally desired to express his own Movement.  Exile came to earth as a part of the Fall.

Adam & Eve were cast out of the Garden. Cain had to live as a vagabond, after murdering Abel.  For many tribes, banishment was as bad as execution, if not worse.  Throughout the story of Genesis, families large and small almost constantly split, separated, re-split, divided and - always - fought against one another.  At one point, God chose Noah, whose boat bobbled, tossed and wandered over (and over!) the face of the Earth... until it finally came to rest far, far away.

Exile became quite the standard of living, for humans.  Divine Movement on Earth had scarcely been seen in quite some time. God closed the door of the Ark and waited until it was time to start over. Then he began once more.  "Be fruitful. Multiply. Fill the Earth. I won't drown you again." But Mankind continued cursing, enslaving, usurping and out-ranking each other.  And - for the most part - they kept living as Nomads.

Noah declared that one branch of Ham's family would always serve Shem's. Noah decided where Japheth would live. But Ham's grandson Nimrod became good at hunting and killing, and Nimrod decided to set up his own rules. Nimrod established a Kingdom, and tried to put up a Tower. But Nimrod's great building project was overturned when God scattered the people and scrambled their languages.  By this, God kept most of humanity living in tents, wandering, each tribe searching for lands it could call its own.

Exile, again and again, was the primary punishment. Since Eden, the sin had been less clear at some times than others, but what is most clear is that God had not been directing these people.  They were not following Him. God was willing to move - in them, with them, for them - but people kept making their own moves.

So God made them keep moving on.

All this while, God had not lost the desire for His own Movement to thrive on the Earth.  He still wanted to be an (or the) impetus for human action.  He definitely wanted to bring change.  He dearly wanted to find some ones who would follow Him.  He desperately wanted to find people on Earth whom He could walk with, in any part of the day.

Eventually, he found one such person.  You get one guess as to the name.

To be continued...

August 28, 2010

The Movement of God - 11

The first time God worked with human beings on Earth, he gave them a particular PLACE to reside. God is also a God who Abides, after all. As much as Movement expresses an aspect of Who He Is, it is equally true that Rest expresses an aspect of Who He Is.  He worked for six days of creation, and he rested for one.

He is always dynamic.  He is always at peace.  Neither Newton nor Einstein can explain these non-physical paradoxes, but He Is Who He Is.  God very much IS a stillness in the midst of all chaos.  But God is also the Mover who moves in our hearts.

So this God - who is MOVEMENT - and Who partly created so that He could Move on the face of the Earth - this Mobile God made his first order of business (on Day 8) the cultivation of one spot in which He could STAY.  But this Paradox becomes even more beautiful when we realize... this dwelling place, this mysterious Garden, itself, was also full of movement.

In the midst of the Garden, a Life-River was flowing. Among all else that a River is, and represents, a River is Motion and Stillness Together. Its waters are always rushing in from somewhere, always rushing away, and yet always constantly here.  Moving.  Unmoving.  Just like its Creator.

In the midst of the Garden, a Life-Tree was growing. Besides all else that a Tree is, and represents, a Tree is Stillness with Motion inside it. The Life that flows from its roots literally overflows as its fruit. Nothing looks less alive than something that is always perfectly still. But if you watch very closely, if you look microscopically through the bark, deep inside its trunk and limbs, a Tree is always expanding and flowing. (Not even deciduous trees ever shut down completely.)  And this Tree was an evergreen, bursting with Life.

These were vessels of God's Life.  Perfect. Constant. Motion in Stillness.

From the very beginning, therefore, God had in mind for the Life (and lifestyle) of his Human Race some divine mixture of Motion and Rest - Growth and Patience, Rushing and Abiding, Moving and Staying. And everything in that Place begs us to suppose that it would have been sufficient to last in perpetuity. "Time" would not be a problem. LIFE could be everlasting.

But, as we know, Adam sinned.

And that day, something new came into the World's experience.  Thanks to Adam, there was born a new kind of motion. For poetic contrast, we might call it "the Movement of Man". Or, we might simply call it what it was in this instance, and that which it came to be known as for all time, on Earth:


To be continued...

August 27, 2010

Quirinius is Irrelevant

Luke is either wrong OR misunderstood, but History doesn't care which it is.  Either way, P. Sulpicius Quirinius was never the Governor of Syria before Herod the Great died.  In other words, defending Luke 2:2 has nothing to do with reconstructing the Historical Nativity.  The Lukan Census (2:3-5) almost certainly belongs to the Governorship of Saturninus (9-6 BC).  That is, of course, assuming it actually happened.

Today, however, that's not my point.  This is.

Brian LePort recently blogged on Quirinius (here and here) and Stephen Carlson left a link to his own study (Dec.2004) of  the verse in question (Luke 2:2).  I'm not the master grammarian around here, but what Stephen suggested looks very unique, and very good.  I'm not sure how I missed or overlooked it before now, but interested parties should definitely pay Stephen's work very careful attention.

Whether Stephen is right or wrong, however, I want to emphasize again that our view of the Christmas Story does not rest on explaining that difficult verse.  Attempting to explain Luke 2:2 is simply a worthwhile challenge unto itself.  Personally, I live in hope that separating these two points will help us out in both departments.  But I have been accused of optimism before.

August 26, 2010

Seriously, Verizon?!

I thought $4 per 30 second ringtone was exorbitant enough already, but now I find out Verizon has been sneaking in Internet data charges ($2 per MB) the whole time I was browsing their VZW service and performing those downloads?  Seriously, Verizon?  And when was I supposedly notified about this?  Seriously.  Verizon, I'm sorry, but that's pure evil.

Now, I like my $4 ringtones.  I like knowing right away if it's my wife, kids or the school that's calling, and I assumed Verizon was fully aware it was already gouging me at $4 per tone... and 3 for $10 isn't much better... but Verizon!!  Nine or ten ringtones should not cost my family $100!  I must not have noticed when it was one download once in a while, but we just added a line, so the new ringtones piled up.  Lucky for us!

Seriously, Verizon!  Double dipping me like that just killed this golden goose, and hopefully I'll warn several others from making the same mistake.  After some outrage on the phone, during which I may have sinned briefly, a very helpful Verizon service agent comped me the charges, and blocked the internet from all three of our phones.  Which means no more ringtones, either.  Which is fine.

Verizon, wake up and smell the coffee.  Unless the policy changes, I'll never download another ringtone again.

Oh, and just to make sure this hits the Googlenets asap:  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.  Verizon ringtones.

There.  I feel a bit petty, but I hope that does some good.

The Movement of God - 10

Upon creating this physical universe, the first thing God did - that we know of, according to Genesis - was to go down close to the surface of Wet-Earth and... move.  "The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters."  Some translations say hovering.  Young's Literal Translation reads fluttering.  He was not floating.  He was not motionless.  He was ready.

It's as if God - who is Spirit - had finally gotten his chance to get out for a stretch.  Maybe he was eager, hopping up and down, ready to get down to work.  Or maybe he was just out there exploring.  Or surfing!  Dancing?  Perhaps he was moving around just because.  No matter what we suppose, scripture's premier sighting of God shows him moving.  On Earth.  This is not arbitrary.

God had lived for Eternity in a spiritual realm, and now God had created the physical realm (we presume).  And right near the start of Creation, here, it seems he was eager to get INTO dimensional space and begin moving around.  In addition to that, this moving over the waters was also simply God expressing Himself.  He was doing something He felt like doing!  Before God even brought Light into the World... before he said "Let"... and before he made Man... God brought Movement into this world.

Best of all, he brought His Movement.

Thus, from that very moment, at the start of Creation, The Movement of God had begun on the Earth.  Please note that this Movement began both at once and that it began precisely once.  That is, only once.

There is always and only One movement of God on the Earth, and that movement only takes place whenever - and wherever - God himself actually moves.

That One movement is no longer in one place, among one people.  But He is One God, and His Movement is One.

So then...

After fluttering on the waves, and establishing all of Creation, God soon planted one particular garden where he walked in the cool of the day.  (Oh, yes, there will be balance.  There must be.)

To be continued...

August 25, 2010

excerpt: the task of a historian

From Gordon S. Wood's The Purpose of the Past, Chapter 5:
In graduate school I was taught that the task of a historian is to describe how people in the past moved chronologically from A to B, with B always closer to us in time.  It seems self-evident, but for me it is the most important lesson I received in my training to be a historian.  Since people rarely stay the same between A and B, describing and explaining change through time always seems to me to lie at the heart of historical reconstruction.
Yes!  This is why the impulse of many Christian apologists is all fine, from a historical standpoint, even though the academic discipline, historical sense and overall effort of such apologists is often below par, for historical work.  Nevertheless, the desire to do what Wood says above - to describe and explain what's on record, if possible - is a valid historical goal.

August 24, 2010

The Movement of God - 9

How is God's Movement reflected in earthly movement?  For comparison's sake, let's consider the True Light and visible light.

The God of Creation said, "Let there be Light." And there was Light... in the physical realm. In another way, in God's own spiritual realm, Light had always existed. Whatever this Light is ("was"?), we have never seen what it looks like from God's perspective. The True Light, who Enlightens the World, did come into the world, once. But the world knew Him not. Not as Light. Although Light is precisely what He was.

The God of Creation said, "Let us make in our Image." Male and Female, Humanity had to be molded after that Image.  But the fullness of that Image was Christ, because Christ is the image of God.

Therefore, before God said "Let", we know God had an Image. Without visible light - somehow, but how we cannot hardly suppose - the pre-existent Son must have looked like the Father. In turn, quite mysteriously, that also means the Father must have "looked" like the Son. But that Image, their Image, was every bit as Invisible as is Holy Spirit. In other words, at one time the Son was the INvisible Image of the INvisible Father. Before visibility, He was His invisible Image.

But at some point, in Eternity, God moved to make His Image Visible.

So this God... Who was Light... made the Physical Universe... and he also made it visible.  Now, the Father could paint pictures of His Son.  The Son was Light, so God started with light.  The Son was Life, so God made a Tree and a River and a Garden, all teeming with Life.  The Son loved the Father, so God made humanity able to love and be loved.  In His Image.

All of this was a reflection of Himself.  All of this was God expressing Who He Is.

God was Light, before light was brought into the visible realm. He was Love, before love came to the race of humanity.  God was Life, before life had been sparked on the Earth.  Also, God had an Image, before His Image was able to be seen in the visible realm.

And now, to get back to the point of this series...

Let us add to this manner of speaking - in the same way as above - that God Himself also was Movement, before His own Movement came into Physical Time/Space.

God moved in Eternity.  God moved in Creation.  God is moving today.  And - if we are deeply blessed - God may even move, sometimes, within us.

To be continued...

August 23, 2010

Genesis AS IF History

Was there a historical Adam?  Was there a historical Eden?  Leading minds these days - even among conservative Christians! - either demure or suppose that, most likely, there wasn't.  The text of Genesis, they say, is so obviously heavy on figurative language, the original writer almost certainly meant the original readers to take much if not all of the Creation Story as allegory.

They may be right, though I like knowing that no one is certain.  Personally, I still hold out audacious hope that it all really happened, very much like the Bible says it did.  And I don't care who thinks that's "stupid".

But that's not my point.

My question is - how much of Genesis can be practically useful for studying History?

Jewish, Christian & Muslim tradition all assert Abraham was a historical figure, though not everyone accepts every claim of the text to be true, about Abraham's life.  Babylonian ziggurats suggest there may be a historical kernel, at least, behind the Babel Story, and evidence suggests there was actually some type of Great Flood, whether that jibes to the letter with Genesis or not.  To rephrase the question - how much of those stories is history, and how much is [what scholars call] "myth"?

The problem is - there's no absolutely reliable academic method for discerning.  Was there a cataclysmic regional flood?  Probably, at least.  Were two cities destroyed by fire?  Perhaps, somehow.  Were Adam, Eve, the snake (!) & Eden real?  Almost no one goes so far, these days.

I would like to suggest one way of dealing with all this, in Historical terms.

First of all, it is NOT evidence for Adam's historicity to point out that both Jesus and Paul spoke about Adam as if he were real.  This is unfortunate, from one way of thinking.  However, the pattern of Jesus and Paul IS an example of how we might speak and write about Adam.  Thus, we might do as well as Jesus and Paul did if we continue speaking AS IF Adam were, in fact, a historical figure.  (Was he?  That's an important but unanswerable question.  I'm saying, of necessity, we might do well to let these remain separate issues.)

How is this method defensible?  That depends.  Here's an example.

Advanced Mathematicians work with something called the Limit, which theoretically can stretch to "infinity".  There's no such thing as infinity (no such number, at least) but working AS IF it exists made it possible for Mathematical work to proceed around that little problem.  The payoff was that doing this just so happened to make all their results work out nicely, and those results later turned out to be verifiable.  In other words, they proceeded without reasonable justification, but proved that doing so was a reasonable method, under certain parameters.

On the historicity of Genesis, I suspend judgment, officially.  For rhetorical and investigative purposes, however, I'm going to proceed AS IF every word in Genesis speaks of historical fact.  If that's true, goody.  If that's not true, so what?  Since nobody can tease out for certain what is or isn't true about Genesis, we're leaving evidence on the table if we treat the whole thing like it's mostly Fiction.

Besides, if the River of Life is merely allegorical, then what does it represent?  If Enoch didn't really walk with God, what does Genesis mean to imply by constructing that tale?  We'd have no idea.  We'd find ZERO historical value from analyzing things that might or might not have happened.  And without even attempting such a perspective, that's at least one major facet of Reason being left unapplied.  Who knows what we're missing out on?

If, instead, we suppose that things in Genesis really did happen... we can analyze these things as events, and allow that natural mode of reasoning to lead us towards observations we might not reach, otherwise.  Again, I say we may as well analyze Genesis AS IF all those stories did, in fact, really occur.

Did they?

Maybe they did.  Maybe they didn't.  Some say "Maybe they 'did', even if they didn't".

But maybe - in more cases than we might ever know, at least - maybe they just simply did.

August 22, 2010

The Movement of God - 8

How did God's Spirit pass time, in a non-physical realm?

Was there change? Was there any sort of activity? Most writers sound like they think there was none. At least, the colloquial reference to God's pre-Creation existence as "before time" shows that, generally, we find it easier to imagine that nothing went on in Eternity. Nothing at all.

To be fair, there's good reason to think not. If God’s spiritual realm truly has no dimension, then the Godhead could not move around. To illustrate by absurdity: the Father and Son could not walk over into West Eternity and have lunch with the Spirit. They couldn't say, "Let's hike up to North Eternity and have a picnic today."

Presumably, before all else, there was nothing but God! Thus, there was no PLACE but God. Thus, the Godhead could NOT (yes, let's repeat that) strictly could NOT exercise the faculty of travel. In other words - at that Time, before he'd created Space - God could not change God's own position… because there was not yet any such thing as position... because God hadn't created it yet!!!

In God's spiritual realm, he was all, and he filled all, fully.

And yet, God must have been moving.  As we've been saying - in some spiritual way, in his spiritual realm, God was then Who and What God is now, and we know that God moves. He moves in his spirit, he moves in our hearts, he moves where he will.  Even though we believe God himself is non-physical, we also believe God can still move.  So, as God is now, God was then.

In God's spiritual realm, somehow, he was moving.

Evidently, however, God wanted MORE movement.

For whatever reason, for however it suited his own divine purpose, God wanted new ways to move, and new ways to express and portray those dynamic aspects of his nature. And so, presumably, at some point during Eternity, God determined to create Dimensional Space, and Physical Matter.

It's as simple as this.  God being a Mover, he wanted more ways of expressing himself, and more ways of illustrating his divine nature, particularly, through movement.  For example, he wanted to spark Light, scatter stars, explode galaxies, and fling planets into their orbits. He wanted to separate waters and raise mountains up from the seas, planting creatures and seeds in the earth that would increase, grow, expand, thrive, and swell in all their diverse multiplicity.

In one way, it seems that what God really wanted was to generate Action! In all this, God was expressing the Dynamic part of God's self. We might even say this was God expressing God’s ‘Martha’ side... which reminds us... we know very well how strongly God has a ‘Mary’ side, too.

Where's the balance? We'll get to that very soon...

For now, let's move on into God's work at the point of Creation.

To be continued...

August 21, 2010

God's Time

God is neither outside of time nor bound by it.  "Time" is an aspect of HIS divine nature, which he passed on to our physical universe, to enrich our experience here.

Think about it.  In Eternity past, if the Triune God was both self-aware and also infinitely intelligent, then God experienced an incredibly high level of complexity in metacognition.  That is, a dynamic experience.  Add to that whatever it means that the Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world, and we seem to have ongoing activity, also.  That implies God experiences something like what we'd recognize as the passing of moments.

In short - if the experience of the Godhead is ongoing, then it has duration, which means time.

Yes, our earthly experience of time is completely bound to the existence of space and physical matter.  But "time", properly understood, is simply a convention of measurement using comparative motions.  Thus, the fact that God is not bound by Physics does not mean God is "not bound by time".  It means God is not bound by physical motion, or change.  But...

If God moves - if there is anything at all within God that is dynamic - then God experiences "time".

August 20, 2010

The Movement of God - 7

How does God move? Where does God move? Where did God move, before there was physical matter?

Perhaps God lived as Spirit within limitless space – the same volume now occupied by galaxies full of stars – before there was physical matter. That is, perhaps God simply roamed, as immaterial Spirit, across empty Space, without having objects to bump into, pass through, or alight upon.

OR. Perhaps God – who is Spirit – lived solely within God’s own spiritual realm. Perhaps Space (the absence of physical matter) did not even exist before physical matter. We cannot know. But if God existed before matter, God may just as well have existed before Space.

From this point on, let’s try to imagine things in that context. Thus, to review:

God moves, and the Way of his Moving is deeply connected to Who and What God actually is. Also, God is Spirit, and so God moves in spiritual ways. (That is NOT metaphorical.) Thus, it may very well be that God was moving before there was Space. It may be that God spent all of Time, before Creation, as a mover with no physical space to move in. In other words, if God existed before Space, then all his movement was purely spiritual. God was moving before there was any place He could go!

All fair enough, if you follow that much.  But now think about this. If God was All, in His spiritual realm, then we should probably think He filled All, as well. (Not that spirit necessarily fills spirit like matter fills space, but nevermind for the moment.)  If God was All and filled All, before anything else, then how could God move? Even spiritually? If God was everywhere, in His own realm, then "where" else could He go?

In such questions, we can find only paradox.  God is the Primary Mover. Yet, God had nowhere to go, and nothing to 'push off' against(*).  Thus, God CANNOT have been moving.  Or so Physics would have us believe.  But who really thinks God is a physical Being?

*** So, now, here comes the rub. ***

Is this physical realm the only place where things move around, and thus by contrast true Godliness is merely, eternally static? Or can we grasp that there seems to be something Eternal (and thus, unchangeable) about God which is also dynamic, even in His Eternal realm? Is there something that truly Alive, that Provokes, that Enacts, that Sponds as much as it longs for Responding?

It would seem that there must be some kind of deep dynamism within God's own nature that helped motivate His Creation.  Indeed, that God even Created shows that God has a drive to Initiate!  Apparently, it must be a very deep drive.  And apparently - right instep among all other aspects of his Eternal Purpose for Creation - it seems God desired to express this Dynamic Impulse within God'self as Movement.

But to move in this new way God envisioned, God required a physical realm.

To be continued…

(*) We've left off Newton's Laws of Motion, especially Inertia - that objects at rest or in motion tend to remain so unless interacting with other material substance.  But Aristotle was the first one to point out the inertial paradox of movement itself (that is, of movement's ultimate origin) when he called God "the unmoved mover".  How is it that something (GOD) could ever alter its own momentum without first being acted upon?  In the physical realm, that's impossible.  But in the spiritual realm?  Well. Who's to say?  ;-)

August 19, 2010

Spiritual 'Magic Eye'

Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.  I'm referring, for starters, to those scrambled images in the newspaper's Sunday Funnies section, where you have to follow the instructions just right or you won't see the picture 'pop out'.  If you've not seen one of those, Google it.  If you have seen one, let me tell you, I'm not very good at seeing the picture.  But that's not my point.

Imagine a country full of people with super short attention spans, who were functionally incapable of staring the right way, for the required number of seconds.  None of them would EVER have seen the coherent picture pop out of the scrambled image.  What would such a people conclude, about the process?

I can picture them breaking up into five groups:

A first group would pretend to have the experience.  They'd all read the instructions and claim to see things - but the different things they saw would cause conflict and division.  New members of such groups would be taught how to imagine the right experience, and how to describe it appropriately.

A second group would redefine the experience.  They'd claim the eyestrain and blurry vision themselves (which came only to those making supreme efforts) *was* the experience.  Their followers would be taught that the blurry version of the scrambled image *was* the "popped out" picture.

A third group would deny the experience.  They'd admit, with admirable bravery and honesty, that they'd never had the experience, and they'd try warning people against false belief in the obviously faulty instructions.

A fourth group would devote considerable effort to following the instructions, until they actually had the experience.  These people would frequently be misunderstood or patronized by the first three groups.

A fifth group would admit they'd not had the experience, but maintain fervent hope that it just might be possible.  For what it's worth, this fifth group would be my personal heroes.

Not that this makes a perfect metaphor for anything in particular.  :-)

It's just something to think about...

August 18, 2010

The Movement of God - 6

Where was God, before physical matter? The void of space? Or some spiritual realm? In other words, was the Triune God floating as One spiritual Being, within the dimensional limitlessness our universe occupies? Or was the Godhead somehow residing in/on/at some other plane of reality, completely apart from dimensional Space? Was God, in God's fullness, filling up some other, purely spiritual realm?

Again, this is not academic. We are trying to become more familiar with God’s Movement, at least in such terms – and yes, we must stick with our definitions of these terms, as we best understand them – and it seems plain enough that any Mover requires some Space to move in.

On the other hand, spiritual spirit does not seem to obey the same rules as material matter!

For example:  We know Jesus found spirits “inside” people, and ordered them out. Assuming that really happened, then where were those spirits? In people's gall bladders? Were a Legion of tiny demons hiding in the back of that Gadarene's throat?  Hanging onto his uvula, perhaps? Were they microscopically tiny (but substantially physical) intelligent parasites of the frontal lobe, riding his neurons like cowboys, and herding his impulses?  For all we know, that may be what they did, but were they doing so as tiny, physical beings?  No. I don’t think so, and neither do you.

Let’s be frank. IF those spirits were real, and if those stories are at all based in fact (and for the record I believe that they were, and they are) THEN there seems to be some type of manner in which spiritual beings actually exist, somehow, by taking up something like non-space.  Furthermore, they seem to do this from within a realm trans-dimensionally askew from, and yet distinctly attached to, our physical universe.

Is your mind boggled yet? Relax. I can make this very simple.

What this means is that Spirit (and spirits) apparently move in a spiritual realm, by some spiritual means, in some spiritual realm. If so, we presume such a realm must be, by nature, non-physical, without having dimension, and thus without having Space. Yet Spirit seems to be able to act and to move in this spiritual realm. Thus, Spirit (and spirits) apparently move by a motion that we know not of – by some motion beyond Einstein’s theories.  And God is Spirit.

God is meta-physical. God is meta-dimensional. God is unfathomable.

Yet, God moves.

To be continued…

August 17, 2010

excerpt: The Lessons of History

From Gordon S. Wood's The Purpose of the Past, Chapter 4:
History does not teach lots of little lessons. Insofar as it teaches any lessons, it teaches only one big one: that nothing ever works out quite the way its managers intended or expected. History is like experience and old age: wisdom is what one learns from it. ...

By showing that the best-laid plans of people usually go awry, the study of history tends to dampen youthful enthusiasm and to restrain the can-do, the conquer-the-future spirit that many people have. Historical knowledge takes people off a roller coaster of illusions and disillusions; it levels off emotions and gives people a perspective on what is possible and, more often, what is not possible...

To much of this historical sense, too much skepticism, is not, of course, very good for getting things done. ... Fortunately, however, there seems to be little danger of our becoming too historically minded in America today.
This chapter was previously published as a book review in the New York Review of Books, March, 1984.

August 16, 2010

Personal News

I just heard, the possible new (improved) Math position is still very much in play.  Since being able to support myself financially is what keeps me researching and blogging, I don't mind asking you all, dear readers, to 'keep me in mind'.  And yes, I'll announce more at whatever date I'm made aware. Thanks, Lord.

"His eye is on the sparrow, and the lillies of the field, I've heard
And he will watch over you, and he will watch over me
So we can dress like flowers and eat like birds."
--Rich Mullins, Hard

The Movement of God - 5

As we recognize it, Motion requires space. Where, then, did the Living Spirit of God actually reside, before there was physical matter? We don’t know, and we cannot know, but despite all our ignorance it seems there may be two possible answers.

We've presumed there was a time before physical matter when God was All and filled All. Now, the next question is, was there physical space? Was there dimension? It may feel silly to ask this, until we realize that, technically, Space is not physical matter. Earth’s air is predominantly filled up with gaseous molecules (mostly nitrogen), while Space is defined as the absence of physical matter, a complete lack of atomic material.

Since Space is nothing, it may be that Space was/is uncreated.  In other words, much like Time, Space is not a "thing" which actually exists.  Space, as we conceive it, is merely the void something passes through in-between making contacts with physical matter.  Thus, since neither Time nor Space actually exists, except as intellectual conceits to support our understanding of movement, we may as well suppose (with all rational sense) that both Time and Space did "exist", according to God's perceptions, before there was physical matter.

In other words, we might conceive that before there was anything else, God’s immaterial Spirit may have been roaming across limitless Space.  That is option #1.

Option #2 would be to consider that God may even predate dimensional space. That is, perhaps Space was indeed created.  In other words, it may be that God existed (before all else but Himself) in some God-shaped non-place, or in other words, in some Spiritual realm, or in other words, in some non-dimensional reality - but the fullest nature of such a reality, of course, we cannot possibly imagine.

But if this is/was the case, this could mean that God's Movement occurs in some Spiritual manner that breaks all the bounds of what mortal senses can recognize as "changes in place over time".  In other words, God's Movement may not even (or may not always) look like something that we'd expect to call "action".

And yet, God was active.  How do we know this?  Because God Moves.  In all that scripture tells us of God, this is one undeniable aspect of who and what He Is.  God Almighty is One who Moves.  He does things.  He takes initiative! He's a Mover.  So, where ever God was, how ever God was... in some Time, before physical matter, and possibly even before there was dimensional Space... God was moving.

To that point, however, God was moving alongside of, and along with, no one but Himself.

To be continued...

August 14, 2010

The Immobile God

If God is thought to be everywhere, then God can safely be nowhere.  A God who is never in any particular place is much safer than a God who confronts you in some place where you happen to be.  A God who is merely "everywhere" seems unlikely to show up - because if God is already here, how can he ever arrive?

It seems to me that (perhaps) the more people view God in being fixed in this ultimate way, the less they accept him as a God who can move.  Christians talk sometimes about the Spirit as mobile, but God seems to be nearly always immobile.  A mobile God would be one who comes and goes, one who does, one who acts - and who acted within History. An immobile God would seem restricted to merely passive activities, such as watching, judging, and waiting expectantly.

This may be one more reason why Liberal Christendom blossomed almost entirely from within Protestant traditions.  It's not just that Martin Luther paved the way for the enlightenment.  It's (perhaps) also that Calvin's theological grandchildren spent so many centuries with an Immobile God, that many of them naturally stopped believing in the God of the Bible - the One who acts, the One who speaks, the One who builds up, the One who destroys...

If we think God is always immobile and passive, perhaps the Biblical actions of God should be taken as pure fantasy.

August 13, 2010

The Movement of God - 4

Motion defines time. Before people invented sundials or atomic clocks - there was still a whole world full of movement. Flowers bloomed. Berries ripened. Blades of grass bent over slowly as the dew set upon them. Frogs hopped, deer grazed, tigers pounced. And the moon waxed & waned as it played with its pull toy, the sea. But before human history, there was no artificial measurement of “time”.

Most examples of motion in nature are known to relax and/or surge at unpredictable moments.  In fact, very few things seem to move with any natural consistency.  The invention of man-measured "time" reflects our mortal desire for some reliable constant.  But only one Movement is, or can be, truly constant.

The Almighty God is as constant as human beings are inconstant.  Paradoxically, however, God is also dynamic. The Divine Word, who was In the Beginning with God, He came into the World and - somehow - changed. Jesus became incarnate, died, rose, ascended, and began dwelling in spirit within each of his followers. He changed, changed again, brought change, and keeps on bringing change still today.  Yet, the LORD changes not.

God is perfectly constant, and yet God is dynamic.  What a Mystery!

But perhaps we digress...

Keeping all this in mind, about motion and constancy, let's go back a couple of posts and re-examine the Time when, presumably, God existed before any physical matter.  What must that have been like?  We've already determined, in all practical sense, that there was a progression of "Time". Also, somehow - because God is one who Moves - there was Movement.  Before there was physical matter, God was moving.  Somehow.  But HOW?  In what manner and by what means was God moving? Or, to put that another way, what was God's Movement like, in that Time?

For starters: Did God have any Place to move in, to or from?

To be continued...

August 12, 2010

Herodias, Queen of Galilee: Conclusions

Josephus says Antipas "fell in love" with Herodias, his niece & sister-in-law.  He suggested marriage.  She agreed to wed IF he divorced his first wife AFTER returning from Rome.  Indeed, Josephus says Antipas "transacted some business" (loeb) while there.  He secured the rights to a mint and the right to break a longstanding treaty with Aretas, King of Nabatea.

Josephus does not strictly say that Herodias waited in Caesarea.  If she did not make this voyage with Antipas, she must have written some letters - at least one to her Patron Antonia.  In Rome, such a letter would have gotten Antipas an audience with Antonia, who at least had the power to put Herod in front of Sejanus, and probably Tiberius also.  It seems most likely Antipas did see Capri.

The letter Antipas eventually wrote to Tiberius (AD 36) reflects that some kind of understanding had previously gone between them about Aretas and Galilee.  It wasn't just Antipas' earned favor or Aretas' war crimes that moved Tiberius to send a Legion down for retribution.  The assurance of Rome's power had been part of the bargain when Antipas asked for Herodias - when Antipas asked to divorce the Nabatean.

Why did Antipas want Herodias?  Was love really a factor?  Perhaps.  Herodias' ambition, her connections, her Roman sensibility, her Latin (!), her genes, and the financial prospects of all that together - such attractive assets may have helped inspire the Tetrarch's great "love".  She was quite the match for him, maybe more than a match.

Of Herodias' ambition, it did run in the blood.  Her aunt Salome (HTG's sister) was once briefly the power behind Palestine's throne, for a few months in 4 BC.  Herodias was a small child in Rome at that time, but may have visited with aunt Salome while the Herodian parties waited there for Augustus to rule on their succession dispute.  At any rate, Herodias named her daughter (with husband #1) after that aunt, and later married that daughter to Philp the Tetrarch.  That is some evidence of ambition.

That same royal ambition ironically resulted in Herodias' eventual downfall.  Then again, her only real failures at that point may have been misjudging Caligula, and underestimating her brother.  Apart from the Emperor's madness, the would-be Queen may have gotten her crown after all.  Indeed, if things in 27 BC were as they seem to have been, the entire reason Herodias was selected by Antipas - and approved of by Rome - was to raise the status of Galilee, and effectively become its Queen.

Fini.  For now.

Read the Whole Series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Conclusion

August 11, 2010

Blogging Notice(s)

Firstly, the movement series is going bi-daily, starting on Monday.  I'm up to part 16 in my drafts folder, and that number might double before we're all done.  That means I'll be blogging the Movement of God for at least a month - maybe three.

We should be done with the practical-theological metaphysics by the end of next week, by the way.  But in case that's not been your favorite, it still helps set the stage for what's coming up next.  Once we hit Genesis I'm hoping to go straight through the whole Biblical Story - from the Spirit fluttering over the water, to the New Jerusalem coming out of heaven, I contend, there has always been only one "Movement of God".

I'll also be posting weekly excerpts on major issues in Historiography, from The Purpose of the Past, like today's bit on Narrative History.  Also, my summary/conclusion on Herodias posts tomorrow.  Plus, you never know what else I'll blog on, as usual.

Do stay tuned...

excerpts: Narrative History

From Gordon S. Wood's The Purpose of the Past, Chapter 3:
Never before have historians been so ready to grasp the central insight of all social science - that society and culture transcend the particular aims and purposes of individuals, that people make their social and intellectual history but are at the same time bound by what they have made. Faced with such an insight, old-fashioned narrative history, which assigns personal responsibility for what happened in the past to particular people, loses much of its meaning.
No doubt there is always a constructed character to all history writing, but this fabricated character seems particularly evident in narrative history. The past, after all, is not a series of stories waiting to be told, as has become more and more apparent in the twentieth century. [In a story, i]ncidents no longer just pile up upon one another; they are drawn together, connected, and given meaning by the ending of the story. The plots, the coherence, and the significance of narratives are always retrospective.
However - and yes, the author thinks this is a good thing:
Most historians, especially in the English-speaking world... still hold to a traditional epistemology, still believe that the past is real and that the truth of it can be recovered through storytelling. The rest of the intellectual world may be falling over itself with excitement in discovering the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of representing reality in any form of language or writing. But not historians. While intellectuals everywhere are promoting "structuralist" and other forms of nonlinear thought, most historians cling innocently to their Newtonian belief that one thing follows another in a coherent and causally related narrative pattern. It may be that traditional narrative writing depends on historians' remaining mentally in the nineteenth century...
The bulk of Chapter 3, Narrative History, was previously published as a book review in the New York Review of Books, August, 1982. The book (2008) includes some of Woods' follow-up reflections, of which I now also quote:
Many historians have blended storytelling with analysis very nicely and, it is hoped, will continue to do so.
Yep. Yep. Yep.

August 10, 2010

The Movement of God - 3

Basic Physics says Movement is change in position, over time. “Time” however, does not truly exist. And space, as it turns out, is not actually physical. But, wait. Let’s take one thing at a time.

As we most often speak of it, Time is simply an artificial, human-made system of measurement. As we usually think of it, Time is merely an illusion of order, cast upon chaos – an illusion we cast by comparing all kinds of random and inconstant movements (which is, virtually all movement) against one or two of the very few things in the universe whose movements do seem completely predictable.

The only basis for counting "a second" is that we divide sunlight by 24, 60 and 60 again. How arbitrary! Atomic clocks may have replaced sundials, but neither atoms nor stars can explain why we use such things to measure all other movement. As Einstein(*) might have put it, our perception of time shifts considerably depending on which moving things we’re comparing.

In other words, there really is no such thing as time. There is only movement.

So let's think about movement itself, and how it takes place.

To be continued...

(*) That business of Einstein's with clocks on rockets is about ticking motion, not Time per se. The fact is, if you move really fast, ticking motion slows down. Atomic clocks on airplanes going 600 mph proved that it does. Now, I have no idea why that happens, but I know what does not happen. To say “time” slows down is just a manner of speaking. It’s all just relative motion – what Einstein called inertial frames – which is what (I'm told) Special Relativity is actually based on.

August 9, 2010

Herodias, Queen of Galilee - 6

What did Rome get from approving Antipas' re-wifing? Aside from Antonia's patronage, or Antipas' improving tax base in Galilee, what else could possibly have swung Tiberius and/or Sejanus into favoring the switch?  (Series so far:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

It could be that Aretas was ripe for a demotion in status to begin with. The Nabatean King hadn't won much favor from Augustus, after his crowning in 9 BC, and so far as we know Aretas had done nothing to please Rome since the marriage treaty with Antipas. What we do know is that Aretas spent a great deal of his resources on improving his own kingdom, and yet unlike his Judean counterpart, Herod the Great, we have no record of Antipas contributing benefactions to the Greek-Roman oikoumene at large.  If things were as they appear to have been, such selfish isolationism cannot have won any favor at Rome. More likely, it was quite to the contrary.

By contrast, then, one of Herodias' chief advantages over the Nabatean princess - in Rome's eyes - was Herodias' affinity for Latin culture and for Rome itself.

At the start of this series, we noted how important it was to Augustus (and thus to Tiberius, because Tiberius' positions in foreign policy were uniformly conservative) that foreign rulers be raised and indoctrinated at Rome.  It may not have taken Antonia to point out to Tiberius (or Sejanus) how perfectly Herodias' upbringing met Rome's preferred qualifications.  She was of royal, Herodian blood.  Her husband-to-be, Antipas, had spent several years in education at Rome, but she herself had been raised there from infancy, within the Imperial household!

In start contrast to the princess of Nabatea, whose father's Kingship was only approved for a lack of alternatives, Herodias was a woman whose pedigree was contributive.  In the long road towards (hoped for) Romanization, which was looking especially long in the East, Rome needed to provide backwater regions such as Galilee with as much positive acculturation as it possibly could.  Installing Herodias with Antipas was like installing the mint.  Every developmental assistance encouraged stability.

Although no one saw this marriage as anything so anachronistic as a true partnership of joint rulers, there was definitely some gain for the Empire in giving Herodias to Antipas.  In turn, Antonia and Tiberius (and/or Sejanus... and all their advisors) would have recognized in Herodias another positive way to contribute direct Romanizing influence on a client King in the East.

That - in addition to whatever other advantages Antipas or Antonia may have offered - is why Rome made Herodias Queen - essentially, if not officially or titularly - of Herod Antipas' Galilee.

To be Concluded...

Read the Whole Series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6, Conclusion

August 8, 2010

Movement Notes - 1

Saying "God is real" is not the same as saying "God is actual".  To say that God acts... To say that God can and does operate in the real world... To say that God has frequently acted in History... To say that God moves in one's own life... Or inside one's own self... These are, ontologically, very challenging statements.

Precisely HOW does God act, operate, or move?

By it's most primary definition, Theology is the study of God.  According to practice, Theology in general has most often become the domain of Philosophy - proposing logical conjectures about transcendent things we cannot fully apprehend is what philosophers and theologians have in common.  However, there are other fields of study in which logical conjectures can be valid and necessary, if not frequently so.

Historians, for example, must often attempt to extend certain trajectories of action, or even ideas, and after extending said trajectories, historians must consider what else to our knowledge may have encouraged or impeded that motion.  There is no final judgment on their conclusions, except to weigh evidence and compare what are known facts with what remains uncertain.

Physicists, also, must often hypothesize about what action might or should happen with some particular set of circumstances.  Given the chance, the physicists test their conjectures with actual experiments.  One of Einstein's theories remained untested for many years, waiting for observations from a solar eclipse (or two).  And some theories in Physics will never, and can never be tested.

We ask again:  Precisely HOW does God act, operate or move?

Some conjecture is certainly required in this investigation, which, properly, is a Theological one.  But what kind of Theology will it be?  Is it possible for Theologians to conjecture in ways less like Philosophers, and more like Physicists and Historians?  Let us hope so.

We very much need for discussion regarding an actual God to be shifted away from ideas of the mind, away from transcendent vagaries.  If the discussion is going to be of any practical value, we very much need to find ways of discussing God which can be based - as much as possible - upon evidence and experience.

Even-Handed Historiography

I keep trying on terms. None of these labels works well.  Presuppositional Apologetics? Confessional Reconstructionl? Faith-based Historiography? Theological Historiography? What would you suggest?  ("A Maximialist Approach"?)

Some conservatives in the past have used the term 'Historical-Grammatical' to describe their approach. (Hmm. I wonder if the word Grammatical was suggested as a way to avoid the word 'Literal'?) By definition, that's not what I'm after, because I'm NOT trying to include theological or philosophical presuppositions a priori. I just want to let CREDENCE inform what may be considered acceptable as historical data, before we begin interpreting scripture from an otherwise historical-critical perspective.

All these labels fall short.  All I know is that whenever an historical text purports something which readers might take as outrageous, seemingly-impossible, or seemingly-incompatible claims, there are two logical options:
One - assume it's false, throw it out and try to explain why it got put in.

Two - assume it's true, keep it in, and try to explain what else it requires.
In normal historiography, sans supernatural phenomena, the more even handed approach abounds. A favorite example: When Tacitus and Suetonius seem to contradict one another about the timing of [the elder] Agrippina's banishment, Anthony Barrett considers the options and tells us, IF both sources are accurate, HOW they could be reconciled most plausibly.

Imagine that - a conditional solution! Remarkable.

That's not Tacitean/Suetonian Apologetics. That's simply good logical analysis.

August 7, 2010

Check this out!

Virtual Hierapolis looks like a very cool book, and something I would love to see more of.  Wouldn't you?

The Movement of God - 2

God is immaterial Spirit.  Yet he moves.  He predates "space and time".  Yet he moves.  We think of God as being unbound by anything, including "time".  Yet, God is one who moves.  He does things.  He creates.  He brings change.  So it's not just metaphorical.  God moves.  But...

In our human conversation and understanding of things, we must define Movement as change in position over time.  Seemingly, this creates a problem.  If there was no "space" or "time" in God's own Eternal past... how can we call God a mover?  The answer must be that there is no such thing as time.  And perhaps - maybe - there was "space" before physical matter.

This is not all academic.  If we want to consider the Movement of God, then we need to consider how God moves.  To answer "in mysterious ways" is true, beautiful and profound; but it doesn't help us at all.

This should not be a matter of Theologizing.  This should be a practical effort to understand what God does... preferably so that we might find a way to get caught up in what God is doing.  And remember, God is always doing one thing.  Despite what you think may or may not be true about "space" and "time"...

God is moving.

To be continued...

August 5, 2010

Herodias, Queen of Galilee - 5

The same sea voyage that got John the Baptist arrested happened to get Herod Antipas more than a divorce. It also got him a mint. (See the recent post: Herod Antipas' Mint (or) Why Herodian coinage helps date John the Baptist's arrest.)

Since Antipas had already scheduled his voyage to Rome, before suddenly proposing to Herodias at the port city of Judea, it seems at least part of his intended business in Italy was to petition the Empire for the right to mint regional coins.

Now, did the advantage of Herodias' connections help Antipas win his petition in Rome? It would be intriguing to speculate, but this question may go beyond simple causality. Does the boss hire his daughter's fiancee to assist in their marriage, or does he only approve of the marriage because the young man now has a secure future? Sometimes it just all comes together.

For starters, the minting of Galilean coins wasn't merely a benefit to Antipas. If Rome helped develop the Tetrarch's financial system, it would surely result in an increase of annual tribute... eventually. That Herod had ruled Galilee for three decades without regional coinage, however, may suggest Rome had previously no reason for confidence in him.

Antipas' rise in favor had been slow, and was not yet very substantial. A marriage treaty added regional stability, but the Nabatean connection had brought nothing noteworthy since. A successful rebuilding of Sepphoris, and a more recent foundation at Tiberias - the latter of which had a local mint since perhaps AD 23; these must have helped. But would they have helped enough?

There's no way to say if winning the minting contract helped Antipas get Herodias, or if having Antonia's favor helped Antipas win the minting contract. All we can tell is that, for Antipas, the mint and the marriage were mutually complementary. This looks like one instance in which causality plays no discernible part.

But were these new arrangements mutually complementary, from Rome's perspective?

We know what Rome got from the mint. What else did Rome get from agreeing to sanction this marriage? We've already supposed Antonia herself might have influenced the decision, but it's too much to suppose that Antonia's favor alone is what won Herodias her "Queenship".  There had to be something more.

To be continued...

Read the Whole Series: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6, Conclusion

August 4, 2010

The Movement of God - 1

On Earth, there is one thing God is doing.  Since Eternity past, there is one thing God has been doing.  If you get involved with what God is doing, then *you* can be part of the Movement of God.  If you don't get involved, then you simply are not now a part of God's Movement.  There is no way around that.  That is how it works.

So, then.  What is God doing?


There are other ways to put this, of course, but I like trying to think in the most basic of terms.  It's almost a tautology:  any time God is doing something, He is moving.  If you think about it, however, this is very unusual.  Movement, as we understand it, requires a change in position, over time.  That's position - in space - and then time.  By definition, as we understand things, in order to have movement, you must have space and time.

And yet God, as we've had him explained to us, is transcendent beyond space and time.  But if there was no "space", and no "time", before God made the universe, then how can God be in any real sense One who moves?

God is a mover, so He must not be bound by this thing we call time.  But how could that be possible?

To be continued...

August 3, 2010

Herod Antipas' Mint (OR) Why Herodian coinage helps date John the Baptist's arrest

When Agrippa accused Antipas before Caligula, in AD 39, he most likely cobbled together some truth and some falsehood, in his charges against the would-be King and Queen of Galilee.

For instance, Antipas did indeed have thousands of units of arms stored up, as Agrippa declared, but it may or may not have been part of a plot with the Parthians.  On the other hand, it's extremely doubtful the cache of arms had anything to do with this betrothal to Herodias.  Rome already had four Legions in Syria.  (For a recent and fuller discussion about this, see my post on Herod Antipas' Army, from earlier this year.)

Likewise, Antipas most likely did NOT plot with Sejanus against Tiberius, even though Agrippa convinced the unstable Caligula this was true.  However, there may be another seed of truth to Agrippa's lies.  Antipas and Sejanus must have consulted on two things together, at least.  Aside from an official release from his marriage treaty with Nabatea, Antipas got one other thing from his voyage to Rome in AD 27/28.  He won the right to mint coins.

The earliest coins of Antipas date to AD 29. Though the city of Tiberias seems to have minted local coins from 23; see MaddenHoehner for the details.  I disagree with Hoehner, however, that this dates Rome's granting of official permission for Antipas to that same year.  Coins in 29 as - if not more - likely mean permission came in 28.

Logically, if Antipas comes back from Italy in late summer or mid autumn, he must then have taken the rest of the year to obtain ore and commission the castings.  Even commandeering Tiberias' local mint, assuming minor modifications, and even if the first coins were proofed by year's end, it may have been most logical to post date them a few weeks for a first time roll out.  Thus, coins officially dated to 29 don't necessarily mean the right to coin was secured in 29.  More likely, it was 28.*

The coins suggest at least one part of what "business" Herod Antipas must have "transacted" during his one known voyage to Rome of those years (Antiquities 18.111).  Juxtaposing this voyage with the marriage contract to Herodias is what dates the trip to the year before John the Baptist's arrest - the arrest being generally 28, 29 or 30 in almost all accounts, anyway.


(Full disclosure, I have other reasons for thinking John the Baptist was arrested in 29, just as Hoehner had his own reasons for placing that event in 30.  Tit for tat.)

August 2, 2010

The Movement of God (Series Intro)

God is moving on Earth today, and God has been moving on Earth for a very long time.  But wait.  Let's back up.  Waaaaaay up.

Before "time and space", there might not have been space, but there was definitely time.  That may be why God wanted physical space - because God likes to MOVE.  He had all kinds of time to Himself, and yet no place to go.

The potential for movement and change had to be one of God's motives for creation.

To express that more deeply:  One reason God created the physical universe is because God is Movement.  That is, Movement expresses an aspect of Who and What God IS.  Or, to put that another way, God moves, and since moving is something God does on the Earth, then there must be something dynamic about the very nature and character of the one who (also) does not change.

To sum up:  God moves.  From before creation up to right now, in physical and mysterious ways, God has been moving.  And one reason God moves on the Earth is because God wants to see human beings learn how to move like He moves.  Or, you might say, God wants to move us, and God wants us to move - preferably as an US, too.  Corporate motion is another key part of this picture.

Movements come and movements go, in our human experience, but the best Movements are always those being generated by the Mover himself.

So let's look at The Movement of God.

August 1, 2010


"writing can come in fits and starts but once the muse moves, you must obey" 

-- Jim West, from his wide-lens Biblical Studies Carnival, for July  (check it out)

from Biblioblogs this July

Of 200+ items I shared this month, here come the share-iest.  Get yourself a Google Blog Reader (here) and you can start sharing too.  It's nice to share, just like all these folks did in July, 2010:

Lots of New Testament Era archaeology news this month, and Rogueclassicism had all the scoops, as usual.  Found:  one shipwreck, one temple & bridge, one coin hoard, one major canal).  IHahn noted a new site called Blogging Pompeii.  Todd Bolen shared details about the late-antique Synagogue that was recently dug up in Galilee.  I always like being reminded of the diligent diggers who keep finding us new evidence to consider.

A review at the BMCR discussed Classical Historiography:  how ancient history writers made decisions about what to include, how much was art or science, and how diverse the genre really was.  On historical skepticism, Chris Brady passed along the perfect analogy - how much of WWII seems unbelievable, today?

Mark D. Roberts considered reasons why Jesus probably spoke some Greek, which I agreed with, and then I learned J.P.Meyer did too.  So that's very good.  Incidentally, I finally picked up the first volume of Meyer's Marginal Jew, recently.  I liked it - mostly, natch.  Meanwhile, James McGrath completed his wonderfully thorough review of The Historical Jesus:  Five Views with separate posts on each contribution:  Price, Crossan, Johnson, Dunn, & Bock.  I also enjoyed Brian LePort's blog review of the same book.

Mark Goodacre started a discussion about countering the stereotype of Pharisees as hypocrites.  Doug Chaplin gave an excellent and detailed response.  Darrell Pursiful also chimed in.  The whole thing got started largely because of a longish blog post on the topic by David Bivin, the founder of Jerusalem Perspective.  If you're interested, read all these posts.  Bottom line:  Overgeneralizing about Pharisees isn't helpful, and lends itself to supporting anti-semitism.  I trust completely that lots of Pharisees were just as bad as Jesus & John the Baptist said they were.  But you do a little more research and you find out how much Jesus respected about the Pharisees, also.

By the way, Mark Goodacre's blogged tour of Israel was tons of fun.  Go scroll through his July Archives.  You'll find more goodies, like the Synoptic PotatoHeads and this comment on one of McGrath's book reviews, which I'm not informed enough to comment on myself.

I'm honestly not sure what to think about Paul Anderson.  I'm thrilled he keeps tirelessly promoting the use of John's Gospel for historical research, but I'm having trouble finding the substantive points in his opinions, as far as any of it applies to actual History.  Anyway, several bloggers responded to Anderson's latest essay, and I still need to read through JohnDave Medina's post on Anderson's recent debate with Marcus Borg, but I mostly just want Anderson's answer to Borg's question:  "So what?"  Is it a good or a bad thing that Anderson can't answer yet?  Perhaps time will tell.

Elsewhere, Phillip J Long shared some more thoughts about Atlases - specifically about New Testament Atlases, or rather the lack thereof, and then suggested some reasonable substitutes.  From downtown Dallas, Matthew Larsen has been blogging his way through E.P. Sanders' Paul & Palestinian Judaism.  It's been good.  Here's post #1.  Find the rest at Matt's blog.

Joel Hoffman asked if there's too much choice in Bible translations.  Daniel Kirk suggested that women's differentness from men is precisely why they should share in church leadership. (AMEN!)  And Bitsy Griffin began reviewing the backstory of The Moravian Church.  Chapter one brought us from the Crusades to John Wycliffe.  Chapter two was my favorite, because John Hus (Yan Huss) is my favorite.  Chapter three is called 'The Aftermath', and Chapter four, on the Unitas Fratrum, is her latest for now.

Lastly, from nearby Fort Worth, Ched Spellman was the latest to rehash Garrison Keillor's May piece on the future of publishing:  "18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75". After much reflection on that - plus an audio file from Seth Godin on the new dynamics of book publishing - I went on to buy my first Kindle.  To my friends in publishing, please listen to Seth.  He offers some terrific advice.  AND I think you'll like it.  :-)

There's a lot of great stuff I left out, mostly near the end of July.  But that's the kind of stuff you can still catch if you check out my shared items page.  Or get a Google Feed Reader, and use it to follow my shared items feed.

So much for July.  Happy August!
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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton