Friday, May 29, 2009

What does it matter?

"You have wearied the LORD with your words.
'How have we wearied him?' you ask.
By saying, 'All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD, and he is pleased with them' or 'Where is the God of justice?'"—Malachi 2:17 TNIV

<idle musing>
Hmmm...sounds suspiciously like some theology I have heard; even Paul had to fight against it, "Should we sin that grace may increase?" MH GENOITO! μη γενοιτο!

But, we hear it all the time. It is almost like God is pissed at everyone who sins, until they become Christians. Then they can sin all they want! What? "How can we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?" (Petra, but straight from Paul in Romans)

Am I preaching works righteousness now? MH GENOITO! μη γενοιτο! Of course not! It is only by God's empowering presence in the form of the Holy Spirit that can make it possible. And we sell that presence way short of what can happen. I John 3:9 goes so far as to say "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God." (RSV) Pretty strong language, scary in fact. But, if we are to take it seriously, our lives might have to change. Now that is a truly scary thought! I might have to take up my cross and die to myself—can't have that, now can we?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thought for today

"When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old I admire kind people."—Abraham Joshua Heschel

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Flow's possible to spend years trying to achieve perfect stability without moving to higher levels of flow and pull. Experience suggest that this will lead to cycles of stability: dropping back to instability, reattaining stability, and on and on. The reason is that there is no motivation to sustain the higher levels of capability because the system is not tightened to require the improved level. In a large batch operation without flow, a high level of stability is actually not needed and thus the only motivation to continue using disciplined processes is to keep 'lean managers' off your back.—The Toyota Way Fieldbook, page 59

<idle musing>
I'm reading this book for work, but the parallels jumped out at me. It sounds like some people's Christianity, doesn't it? Just substitute spirituality for stability and you describe where they are; they jump on the treadmill and work like crazy to attain “spiritual maturity,” only to fall off again.

Now substitute Holy Spirit for flow, and we see why this happens. With the Holy Spirit in charge of one's life, high levels of spirituality are automatic; there is no falling of the spiritual wagon—he keeps you there. It is no longer work, but a natural out-flowing of God himself living in and through you. No works, just a new life—no longer I that lives, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20)
</idle musing>

Monday, May 25, 2009

You gotta watch that fertility rate...

in Late Bronze age women, that is; it might just have skyrocketed.

Huh? OK, here's the deal:

Until someone can demonstrate that Canaanite women in the Late Bronze/Iron Age transition experienced increased fertility or that the infant morality rate shifted drastically, we must still credit Iron Age I population increases to migration.&mdash: Steven Ortiz in Critical Issues in Early Israelite History, page 201

<idle musing>
Yep; you gotta watch that fertility rate, it could just skyrocket for no reason. That has to be it; to credit the biblical explanation takes far too much faith! After all, if the Exodus happened, then God might actually be the cause of something; if that is true, then he might have a claim on your life. Can't have that now, can we?
</idle musing>

Friday, May 22, 2009

Garden shots

As promised some time ago, pictures of the garden.

Looking west, from the road. The herb garden is in front, with wire mesh over the dill, basil, and parsley until they get tall enough to discourage cat-rolling. The bushes are raspberries; you can see where the garden used to end on the left and right ends of the rows.

The main garden; the rhubarb is in the two boxes in front.

The plot on the left is the watermelon patch. Originally it wasn't fenced, but a dog decided it made a nice toilet one day, so we fenced it in. Notice the asparagus patch attached to the main garden and covered with wire mesh:

A bonus picture. Looking toward the creek, with the firepit in the foreground:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Final from Why Priests

This is the final extract from Why Priests. I hope you have enjoyed the little snippets.

How does the apostolic ideal image of a Church leader look, as lived by Paul? Paul enjoyed an amazing authority and influence in his churches, which stemmed from his human abilities, but above all from the apostolic mandate given him. He never hesitated to bring his authority powerfully into play. But it is characteristic of the Spirit of Christ which moved Paul that the apostle does not expand or develop his authority or give it the form of a sacral juridical relationship. On the contrary, he repeatedly limited his authority voluntarily because he was convinced that his churches do not belong to him but to the Lord and are therefore free in the Spirit: called to freedom and not slaves to men. Paul sees very clearly that his churches are immature in many ways and that they make mistakes. In spite of this, he never behaves toward them as if he, the prudent teacher, must first educate them to freedom. On the contrary, he takes this freedom for granted as a given; he respects it, fights for it, so that his congregations will follow him not out of compulsion but in freedom. Of course, where there is question of abandoning Christ and his gospel for another gospel, he must threaten to curse and excommunicate. He actually carried this out in the case of an individual—a temporary exclusion from the congregation aimed at achieving an improvement—but never did it to a congregation, even when the infidelities were very serious. He is as restrained as possible in the use of his authority: instead of a command a personal appeal, instead of a prohibition an appeal to one's own good judgment and sense of responsibility, instead of compulsion an effort to win over, instead of the imperative the hortative, instead of the you form the we form, instead of punishment the word of forgiveness, instead of suppressing freedom the invitation to freedom.

And so Paul never misused his power to establish the domination of men over men. On the contrary, in matters of Church discipline he refrains from making an authoritative decision where he could very well have done so. In moral questions too, where the Lord and his word are not at stake, he prefers to leave his congregations their freedom and not put any pressure on them. And even in cases where the decision is obvious to him, he avoids unilateral measures and gets the congregation involved. He holds back even where he clearly has received authority to intervene vigorously; he expressly begs his congregation that he not have to make use of it. Even where he has a right, he does not want to exercise it.

Paul thus never confronts his congregations as lord, nor as priest. It is not the apostle who is the lord. Jesus is the Lord, and this Lord sets the norm for his churches and for Paul himself. He can never treat his Christians simply as children but always as “brothers,” whom he serves in patience, frankness and love. His desire to be faithful to the Lord in his ministry—and not a mere concern with etiquette or human civility—is the reason why he is always ready to refrain from using his authority. It is precisely in this way that he uses it not to tear down but to build up.

Nor did Paul want to be a superman. He was well aware of his humanity and fragility and made no claim to infallibility. It is equally important that his counterpart in the New Testament too, Peter, is always described as on who errs, makes mistakes, fails. And it looks almost scandalous the way each of the three classical texts for the preeminence of Peter is accompanied by an extraordinarily sharp counterpoint: to the three lofty promises correspond three profound lapses. All of this served as both warning and encouragement alike to today's Church leader.—Why Priests?, pages 110-111

And then there were four :(

We have lost all but one of the kittens. One died about 2 weeks ago; it couldn't adjust to solid food. But, yesterday two of the remaining three were killed by a tomcat who managed to get into the barn while the mother cat was outside. He cornered two of them on opposite sides of the barn and dispatched them by breaking their necks.

So, the mortality rate for kittens is 80% for this litter, down from 100% from the first litter. The other female, Cally (for Calico), has a better rate—only 66%. On the whole, it seems safer to be a human than a cat around here...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The responsibility of the congregation leader is thus also a responsibility for society in general. This is not to say that in the spirit of clericalism he interferes in everything, even where he is not at all competent; but that he does involve himself and his community in those important questions of society where the Christian message itself, not partisanship of any kind, unambiguously requires it. This is less frequently the case than those people think who, following their (right or left) party line, want to bring the Church into the debate on the day's social and political questions, turn the Church itself into a political party and offer a specifically Christian “answer” to everything that comes up. But it is the case much more often than is supposed by those who would prefer to see the Church and its leaders once again confined to the sacristy, cult, private devotion and the realm of the subjective. The Church then, for all its inward unity, is not an encapsulated cult organization, screened off from the world. It is an open Church, aware of its obligations to the public at large and the other Christian churches—but also to the unchurched Christians, to the church of those who profess no church, to mankind generally. And it is the congregational leader who has the public responsibility—although it is shared by all especially in this matter—for seeing that the Church is and remains such a community of committed love.—Why Priests?, pages 106-107

Thought for today

"Let us treat men and women well: treat them as if they were real: perhaps they are."--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Experience

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Church leader as bureaucrat? No way!

On the basis of the constants which, according to the New Testament message, must be preserved amid all the variables, the Church's ministry of leadership can be described as follows. No matter what kind of congregation he has, the congregational leader must, in virtue of a personal vocation—which, however, is subject to examination—permanently lead the Christian congregation (which always shares in the responsibility for this) in the spirit of the Christian message. He does this by stimulating, coordinating and integrating the manifold gifts and activities of his congregation in various ways according to time and place, exercising his own ministry as one ministry in the midst of others.

...Nothing would be more mistaken than to regard the Church leader as a kind of functionary, a bureaucrat and manager of the Church, however much office work and management may be linked with Church leadership in modern society and the Church. These can only be auxiliary functions...—Why Priests?, page 102

<idle musing>
If you can get past all the modifiers, this is an excellent observation. Unfortunately, many pastors end up as CEOs instead of "stimulating, coordinating and integrating the manifold gifts and activities of his congregation." Of course, I would quibble with "his" congregation—it had better be God's! And, I still think it is a bit too hierarchical (not heretical!).
</idle musing>

The Sermon

A while back I posted a series of quotes from To Preach or Not to Preach. His basic premise was/is that preaching to the saved is a waste of time.

Over the weekend (I'm way behind) I read Ben Myers blog from April 30, when he ran a guest post entitled On sermons: a rant. Here's a nice little excerpt:

...I’ve heard the sermon in nearly all its forms: a 15 minute homily is far too long, while a 45 minute “message” is plainly unanointed. A lifetime pulpit pounding and sanctified lecturing has led me to one obvious conclusion:

There should be a moratorium on the sermon. Let’s go straight from the Gospel to the Creed and cut the drivel in between. I may have heard fourteen sermons a week in Bible college, but I don’t remember the one I heard last week.

Preaching puts me to sleep which, by my definition, is the last thing preaching should do. The sermon should be revelatory – generating ambiguity, disrupting expectation. (Okay, so I stole this from Rowan “Ray-of-Darkness” Williams, but since this rant is about sermons, stealing someone else’s ideas is acceptable.) But, in fact, we already know exactly what to expect – fifteen minutes of nothing. Edward Schillebeeckx says the service of the word should be like the “roaring of the lion” – it is more like the yawning of a sloth.


Ironically, most preachers genuinely believe they are above-average public speakers. (They can’t all be right, can they?) And as Gabriel Moran notes, most preachers also believe that all theology is homiletically-centered. Demurring, he says: “Probably only a clergyman could believe that preaching is a good model, let alone the best model, for understanding the religious life of mankind. It would be a near impossibility to find any non-clergymen who think of preaching and sermonizing as significant at all. Most people who give a thought to it conclude that preaching is an anachronism which is allowed existence because it bothers no one. However, if one’s professional life is centered on any activity, it is possible to view the whole world in light of that endeavor.”

Definitely read the whole thing...

Monday, May 18, 2009


We planted our garden on Saturday, once the rain stopped. It was a cold weekend, with a strong wind from the north both days. But, that didn't stop us from planting. We also put out the flowers in the window boxes.

This year we expanded the garden; it is now 43 x 24, plus an 8 x 8 herb garden and an 8 x 8 annex for the watermelon. I also added a 2 x 4 section of asparagus and 2-2 x 4 sections for rhubarb on the outside of the fence. We had already planted lettuce and onions a few weeks ago; they can withstand a frost well. So, this weekend we planted the rest: beets, carrots, spinach, wax beans, green beans, roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, plum tomatoes, cucumbers, chili peppers, and green peppers—and the watermelon.

Sunday afternoon I added a fence around the watermelon; a dog had decided to use it as a latrine :( Oh, and I added a mess screen over the top of the dill, parsley, and basil until it gets taller; one of the cats decided it made a good dust wallow. As long as I was doing that, I put one over the asparagus as well. Maybe I can remember to take pictures and post them.

Of course, doing all that was the surest way possible to guarantee a frost :( I'm not sure if it affected the plants or not. When I left for work this morning, it appeared that they were fine, but I will find out when I get home tonight. It only got to about 31, so we should be ok.

Blind obedience?

The supreme norm for the exercise of authority in Christ's Church must be the New Testament message against the horizon of each new individual and social situation. If a particular minster in a particular case quite clearly does not serve according to this norm, then he cannot expect submission on this occasion, but instead needs criticism and in serious cases, resistance. Blind obedience is incompatible with the dignity and freedom of a rational man and a Christian. Blind obedience can, as the recent past ha made drastically evident, lead to crime. God alone can expect absolute obedience, ecclesiastical authority never more than conditional obedience—and even that only when it corresponds in its precepts to the will of God expressed in the Christian message.—Why Priests?, pages 97-98

<idle musing>
"God alone can expect absolute obedience"—Amen!
</idle musing>

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Calling is the requirement

Any ministry of leadership in Christ's Church, ordained or not, thus presupposes at the deepest level a calling by the Spirit of God and of Jesus Christ, who breathes where he will and calls whom he will and whose willing instruments both senders and sent are permitted to be.—Why Priests?, page 86 must be said that charism in the strict sense, i.e., a calling from God in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, stands by itself and does not flow from the institution. It is a free calling to a free ministry in the Church, which the Church leadership can suppress or even worse extinguish only at its own expense. A thoroughgoing direct or indirect “bureaucratizing” of a charism contradicts the New Testament. As the New Testament shows, a charism has no need at all of prior legitimation by a Church institution. On the contrary, there are in fact institutions and representations of institutions who have nothing charismatic about them: for instance, ordained Church functionaries who carry out their ministry mechanically and show no sign of a genuine calling of of the Spirit of Christ.—Why Priests?, page 87

<idle musing>
The sad part is that he is correct about the last part; too many are doing things they are not called to do—and not just in the "ordained" ministry. Have you ever been guilted into doing something "for the Lord"? If so, you are probably a victim of what he is talking about.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The purpose of leadership

The Church's ministry of leadership is meant essentially not to be an autocratic authority absorbing all other functions, but one ministry in the midst of a multiplicity of other charisms and functions: a stimulating, coordinating and integrating ministry to the congregation and the other ministries, whether these are permanent (catechists, administrators, social welfare workers, various auxiliary ministries, theologians) or not (groups for making visits, various acts of individual initiative, etc.).

An approach of this kind avoids an accumulation of competencies, which is irresponsible in this age of specialization, and allows for a fresh differentiation of functions. The head or leader of the Church does not need to be a professional theologian, trained psychological counselor, financial expert and educationist as well, since these functions are not linked with priestly or episcopal ordination. (For instance, the theologians in the Eastern churches, now as in the early Church, are mostly laymen). However good it may be, no academic training can prepare a person adequately for all these functions; even talents that are well above average cannot meet simultaneously all the increasingly specialized demands.—Why Priests?, page 83

The Church's ministry of leadership is meant essentially not to be a ministry under the arbitrary control of men, but one which can be understood as putting into effect a mandate fro the Lord of the congregation and as a free gift of the Spirit: a ministry arising out of a calling from God in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, a calling which must be examined by the community, a calling which finds expression in an inner compulsion, an inner awareness of competence and of being impelled toward practical ministry. There is a part that men—the congregation and the existing congregational leadership (the latter perhaps to be regionally superordinated)—can and should play in the concrete calling of a person to ministry in the Church; but not even the Church leadership can give a vocation to someone who does not already have one.—Why Priests?, page 85

National Bike to Work day

Tomorrow is national bike to work day. I encourage everyone to pull out their bikes and ride to work, if possible. If your commute is less than 5 miles (statistically most are), it should only take you about 30 minutes. The average person rides about 10 miles per hour—don't ask what my average is...

You will probably find that you get to work more awake and feeling energetic. Of course, if you haven't ridden for a while you might feel exhausted and ready to die, but I hope not.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday's thought

Full participation of women in the Church's life, on the basis of equal rights, is something that belongs to a suitably renewed Church today. this means not only including women as coresponsible in the different advisory and decision-making bodies, but also the admission of women to all the Church's special ministries and to ordination. (But we should no more speak of a priesthood of women [priestesses] than of a priesthood of men). Sociocultural reason have been advanced against the ordination of women for a territorial and perhaps even more for a non-territorial ministry of leadership, but no decisive theological reason have been presented.—Why Priests?, page 81

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Living Sacrifice

Because of this sacrifice of Christ [on the cross], the congregation too is invited to sacrifice. Not merely exterior offerings, but the dedication of the person himself is expected of the congregation; not material sacrifice but spiritual sacrifices of praise, thanks, faith, obedience, love: a praise and thank offering of dedication which does not remain limited to the liturgical assembly but must be a daily sacrifice in secular everyday life.

The congregation therefore does not offer a second sacrifice of reconciliation over and above that of Jesus; but it does offer praise and thanks for the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ in which it has been given a share through the Eucharistic celebration. For this reason the one who presides at the Eucharistic celebration must not be considered a sacrificial priest. Such a view contradicts the New Testament in general and the Letter to the Hebrews in particular.—Why Priests?, pages 68-69

<idle musing>
This is vitally important. We must live a daily sacrifice of praise; it cannot be limited to liturgical gatherings. It must be a part of who we are; our very core of being must be given over as a living sacrifice of praise.

The second paragraph explains why Küng isn't well liked by the Vatican! But, it is an important point to remember—yes, even by Protestants.
</idle musing>

I want to be a pencil

"I don't claim anything of the work. It is his work. 1 am like a little pencil in his hand. That's all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used."—Mother Theresa

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Augustine's problem becomes dogma

Interesting observation in Why Priests as Küng traces the development of the priesthood in church history:

Augustine is the one who "invented" the indelible sacramental character out of embarrassment over the Donatists, to whom he had to prove that baptism (and ordination) could not be repeated and that baptism by heretics was valid. He was the first to use the word "character" to mean a certain something that was different from the Holy Spirit, different from baptism (and ordination), and also different from the "grace" which was given ("created grace"), without being able to justify this something from scripture or previous tradition...

...Thus what had begun as an unpretentious idea and the emergency solution to an eminent theologian's problem became more than a thousand years later a dogma of the Church, protected by the threat of excommunication. Since then the sacramental character has been interpreted to be a real accidental entity adhering to the soul, more exactly as a supernatural quality physically inhering in the soul; but no one has succeeded in proving from Scripture or ancient tradition so much as the existence of such a character, different from the Spirit, baptism or ordination and from the "grace" communicated.—Why Priests, pages 64-65

<idle musing>
Isn't that about right? Traditions harden into dogmas that no one dares to question. I'm not singling out the Roman tradition here; it happens in all traditions. This is Calvin's 500th year; think about the Reformed tradition and how it has become dogma—if you doubt me, ask Peter Enns :(

Sometimes it takes longer than others, but tradition always manages to supplant God. I believe that is why God starts something new every generation or two. Not that the previous moves are wrong; they just get too fossilized to move freely with the Spirit of God.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Canonical hierarchy?

We continue our way through Why Priests again today. Küng goes through an exegetical study of the New Testament, looking at the passages related to church governance. Here is his conclusion:

The decline into an institutional ministry cannot be said to be normative; nor can the change with respect to the origin, as such, be called apostasy. The New Testament data shows [sic] that there are various models of congregational order and leadership in the New Testament which cannot be reduced to one another, even though they were combined with one another in the course of time. The New Testament therefore does not allow us to canonize one congregational structure alone. This does not mean simply one more difficulty for the Church. On the contrary, it gives it the freedom to move with the times and to be capable of new developments and modifications of Church ministry for the good of men and the congregations. The individual New Testament models need not be imitated, but the crucial New Testament elements must be preserved and put to the test under completely different conditions, so long as we still want to claim to be Christian.—Why Priests, pages 49-50

<idle musing>
I would probably argue more strongly for a New Testament style organization, but the fact that he doesn't want to canonize the traditions that have since developed is encouraging. I suspect my main disagreement is over what is considered crucial :)
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Leadership, not priesthood

More from Why Priests:

But it is even more striking that the New Testament not only makes no use of expressions appropriate to office, but that in connection with congregational functions it also avoids the word "priest" in the sense of sacrificial priest (hiereus, sacerdos), which is the meaning the term has in the history of religions, and avoids all sacral-cultic titles, preferring to describe functions by using terms from the profane area. No doubt this is connected with the fact that Jesus, himself a layman, had only once in all his parables introduced the figure of the priest (Lk. 10:31), and there it is a warning example. The word priest is used for Jewish and pagan dignitaries but never for people with ministries in the Church. Only in a later New Testament period is Jesus himself, the risen and exalted one, understood as priest, but in a way that completely overthrows the Old Testament priesthood. Jesus is the only remaining high priest (deputy, mediator); through the sacrifice of his life, which occurred once and for all, the entire Old Testament priesthood is fulfilled and abolished (Hebrews). From the dissolution of the special priesthood by the priesthood of the one, new and eternal priest there follows—as a further reflection by the congregation (1 Peter, Revelations [sic!])—the universal priesthood of all believers, which has as its concrete content the immediate access of everyone to God, spiritual sacrifices, the proclamation of the word, the carrying out of baptism, the Eucharist, and the forgiveness of sins, and mutual intercession for one another. From a New Testament point of view, therefore, the term "priest" should be dropped as a specific and exclusive term to identify people who have ministries in the Church, since, according to the New Testament view, all believers are "priests."—Why Priests, pages 41-42.

<idle musing>
No wonder Küng is not a favorite at the Vatican! This is a liberating statement for all beleivers, though, whether they are Roman, Protestant, or Orthodox. We all have instant access to God, through the blood of our high priest, Jesus Christ. Praise God for that!
</idle musing>

When does grace become cheap grace?

I received a link to a book excerpt today. This section jumped out at me:

Fred Craddock tells about teaching a class on the parables some years ago. His students gravitated heavily toward these reversal parables where the offer of grace is extended to the wayward son, the publican, the servant who took big risks, and the eleventh-hour workers. The students frowned on punishing lazy stewards or slamming the door in the faces of the poor girls who forgot to fill their lamps with oil. These seminarians, says Craddock, had come to expect grace, and hence it was no longer grace, or if it was, it was cheap grace.

Craddock told them a story. There was a certain seminary professor who was strict about due dates for papers. Due dates were announced at the beginning of the semester, and failure to meet them resulted in an F for the class. In one class, three students did not meet the deadline. The first one explained, “Professor, unexpected guests from out of state came the evening before the paper was due, and I was unable to finish it.” “Then you receive an F,” said the professor. The second student explained, “On the day before the paper was due, I became ill with influenza and was unable to complete it.” “Then you receive an F,” said the professor.

The third student, visibly shaken by the news about the fate of the other two students, cautiously approached the professor’s desk. Slowly he began, “Professor, our first baby was due the same day the paper was due. The evening before, my wife began having pains, and so I rushed her to the hospital and shortly after midnight she gave birth to a boy. So I couldn’t complete the paper.” The professor listened with interest and after a long pause said, “Then you receive an F for the course.”

The news spread rapidly throughout the seminary. A large delegation of students came to the professor to protest. “Why have you been so cruel and harsh?” they asked. The professor replied, “At the beginning of the semester I gave my word concerning papers. If the word of a teacher in a Christian seminary cannot be trusted, whose word can you trust?” The students were then dismissed.

After telling the story, Craddock asked his students if they thought it was a parable. He says most of them were angry not only with the professor in the story but with Craddock for telling it. They insisted it was not a parable. What do you think? Maybe when grace is expected or presumed or taken for granted, it ceases to be grace.

<idle musing>
I think he is onto something there. If we expect or presume on grace, it is no longer considered a gift, but an obligation. Something to ponder on for a bit...
</idle musing>

Monday, May 04, 2009

New online journal

I received this via e-mail today:

Methodist Review: A Journal of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies a new open access, peer-reviewed electronic academic journal, begins publication.

Atlanta, GA – 1 May 2009 – The board of directors and the sponsors of The Methodist Review, Inc., are pleased to announce the launch of Methodist Review: A Journal of Wesleyan and Methodist Studies. As an open access, peer-reviewed electronic academic journal, Methodist Review (MR) publishes scholarly articles in all areas and eras of Wesleyan and Methodist studies, including biblical, theological, ethical, philosophical, practical, historical, biographical, and social-scientific topics and methodologies. The journal’s URL is:

Methodist Review is sponsored by Candler School of Theology, Emory University; Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University; the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools (AUMTS); and the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church (GBHEM). The corporate office of The Methodist Review, Inc., is located at GBHEM in Nashville; the MR editorial office is located at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. Technical support is provided by the Digital Systems division of the Emory University Libraries, where MR is hosted.

Methodist Review will not be published on the regular schedule of a print journal. Instead, articles will be published on the MR Web site when they are ready, and registered users will be notified of their publication by e-mail. Matthews noted that the electronic format was purposely chosen for the journal to best serve an increasingly global Methodist/Wesleyan academic audience by allowing for more timely delivery of articles and lower production costs. The financial support provided by its sponsors enables MR to provide immediate access to its content at no cost to its readers. A one-time, free user registration is required to access the articles published in the journal.

So, if you are interested in such things, hop on over and feast on the offerings :)

Ministry, not office

"Although various functions are mentioned in the New Testament, the problem of a Church office is never explicitly dealt with. Church 'office' is not a biblical concept. It came later after reflection and is not without its own difficulties. Evidently the secular words for 'office' were deliberately and consistently avoided in the New Testament in connection with Church functions. They express a relation of domination...

"Of course there is authority in the Church. But authority is only legitimate when it is based on service and not on power, prior rights and privileges from which the obligation of service is then considered to flow. We would therefore do better, if we want to speak in a precise theological fashion, to speak about Church ministry rather than about Church office. To be sure, it is not the word that counts but the way it is understood; talk about Church 'ministry' can also be misused to hide the realities if the exercise of domination in the Church is not abandoned at the same time...

"Power can be used well or badly. Even in the Church power cannot simply be abolished. But it can be used, when effectively channeled, to carry out functions that serve the common welfare. The unavoidable use of power is one thing; the use of it by individuals or groups to dominate is quite another. In the latter case it is a matter of retaining a privileged position or increasing one's own power. Power can be used responsibly in the Church only in terms of service and is to be evaluated according to its quality as service; such power which comes from service is genuine (and primarily inner) authority. The opposition is therefore not between power and service but between the use of power to dominate and its use to serve."—Why Priests, pages 39-40

New baby!

I'm a grandpa again! Ryan and Emily had a baby girl last evening. Here are the details:
Evelyn Madeline
7 lbs 11 ozs
20 3/4 inches
6:08 PM Sunday, May 3

I'll post pictures once I have them.

Updated, 4:19 PM. Here's a picture:

Friday, May 01, 2009


"As advocate of Jesus Christ, the Church can never have a patriarchal authority structure as its government. Here only one is the holy Father, God himself; all members of the Church are his adult sons and daughters and they must not be reduced to the status of minors. In this society men may set up only truly fraternal and not paternalistic authority. Only one is lord and master, Jesus Christ himself; all members of the Church are brothers and sisters. In this community the supreme norm is therefore not the patriarch, but the will of God, which, according to the message of Jesus Christ, is directed to men's welfare—indeed, the welfare of all men...No one in the Church has the right to substitute for this brotherhood a clerical system's paternalism and cult of persons and thus continue strenghthening the rule of men over men."—Why Priests, pages 32-33.
<idle musing>
Would that this were the way the church actually functioned! Lord, make it so!
</idle musing>

Google books

ZDNet has a very good article about Google books and their proposed copyright settlement. Here's a relevant quote:

The evil-doers never see themselves as evil: they seem themselves as heroes. The worst men in history saw themselves as so important, so great, that they could not be and should not be restrained by the laws that apply to others. Isn’t that how Google sees itself?

Did you know they dropped their motto "Don't be evil" recently? Neither had I until today. Don't get me wrong. I have always been a great fan of Google, all the way back in beta days. They were the best thing to happen to search since Alta Vista (ok, I know I'm dating myself there!). I especially loved the fact that they ran Linux back when very few did. But, of late I have been concerned about certain trends. A quote from the article says it better than I could:

The company has become a true believer in its own goodness, a belief which justifies its own set of rules regarding corporate ethics, anti-competiton, customer service and its place in society. Tellingly, Google has set aside its “Don’t Be Evil” motto at the very time in which its actions increasingly look evil — all the more so for it protestations that it needs the dominance it claims for the good of the public, the good of the Internet, the good of the world.

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There is a ton of interesting theology here, isn't there? No one wants to believe they are depraved—after all, they are doing so much good! Yet, at the bottom, the core philosophy is always, "we know better than -----" (fill in the blank however you wish). Humanity still wants to be its own God. The fall of Google into evil shouldn't surprise us, anymore than the fall of any other human institution or individual; it is hard-wired into our existence ever since the Fall (Genesis 3).
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