Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Adam Smith

Here's an interesting article about Adam Smith. Maybe it would do us good to go back and read primary sources again instead of just ingesting later interpreters...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


This is a poem I wrote tonight in reflection on Dr. Miller's class on the History of Higher Education. It is a work in progress, I'm not sure how to end it, but I thought I'd offer it here. Enjoy.



I’m getting this sneaking suspicion
That I’m a character in a story
That I have not written
And that I cannot tell
But in broken snippets here and there.

I wonder
Is the writer benevolent?
Or, is the writer still alive?
It could be that some power
Set it in motion and has, subsequently,
In history disappeared.

If the writer,
Still writing the assumption stands,
Is benevolent,
Where do I fit in that benevolence?

It is only the addition of one letter
And one space
That makes it mean
‘Good violence’.

Every story has an end,
A goal towards which every action
What is my end, or the end?
When we get there,
Will what I have done,
Will what I have left undone,
Make sense?

It is possible
That I am not supposed to be aware
Of my storied existence.
Did the writer write the writ
That I should be thusly educated?
Or was it an act of my free will?

If the story has a predetermined ending,
Does my will exert any force
Or does it just follow previously laid out

It’s a funny progress
And frightening as well.
But forward somehow it moves
With every clock tick tocking away.

Is it my place to retell the story?
To subvert the storyteller en route
To their ending—to guide it to my own

Even the language I speak
The writer must know
And not only know,
But must give to me.
But how can I act freely
If I cannot even determine
The words I use or what they mean?

I’m getting the sneaking suspicion,
That all I’ve known needs reorientation,
To orient again, to face more east than before.
That maybe ‘respect’ is a fundamental thing.

Maybe I’m an unknowing actor,
Given from ages past an unfinished script,
Which I adlib
Here faithfully
Here foolishly
There falsely.

Freedom lays here
Within limits I choose not.
And applause lays at the end,
Not of my character’s exit stage left,
But of curtain dropping.

In the meantime,
We wait from the writer’s promptings
To show us how to act
To assuage our grief at forgotten lines
To calm our captivated emotions.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Jubilee Reflections

These are a little late...

First of all, thanks to Gideon for his kind words in a comment on this blog. Hopefully, next time we will have a chance to sit and talk. I enjoyed meeting his family. I also realized that he has a striking similarity to Jean Reno, a famous actor in such movies as Ronin. Is Gideon a top-secret incognito neo-calvinist movie star? Only time will tell.

Elaine Storkey, of TearFund spoke about poverty and global warming. Her information about poverty was intriguing and solidified my commitment to Fair Trade. I am still not convinced about the threat of global warming, but our dependence on non-renewable fuel sources does worry me. Our dependence on them is close, I think, to idolatry. Why is it that we refuse to live more simply, more locally, whether that is with a sustainable city or a sustainable country?

I also heard Alan Storkey speak on economics. His insights were helpful and I hope to blog more fully about them soon. I am still a "Creational Capitalist" but with more knowledge and less susceptible to rhetoric (or, at least, I hope I am).

Our (my wife's and mine) experience was made especially enjoyable by a chance meeting (through the providetial auspices of Scott Calgaro) with Larry Bourgeois, a coffee guru. He helped Bethany and I think carefully and more fully about our coffeeshop dreams in the Falls and set us up with contacts and information for the process.

Overall, Jubilee was a wonderful experience this year. My hope, though, is not for myself, but for all those undergrads who take it back to school with them.

Covenant Renewal

Two posts today (hopefully):

The first is a sort of comment on Derek Melleby's last blog about the Ten Commandments controversy. Strange, in a nation full of dispensationalists and antinomians that a rather theonomic position would be taken over this issue. That's beside the point though...

There is a weird phenomemnon in our Bibles. We have some very similar (though slightly different) laws in the Torah (first five books of the Hebrew Bible) that have often been understood properly. Part of the problem is our conception of "law" in the Bible. We should understand it in its ancient near eastern setting as covenant conditions given by a Lord to a servant. They are not timeless or authority-less, nor are they necessarily universal (although, through a different route, that could be said of the Biblical Torah).

The reason that the Torah has many similar, but differing, laws is because of the process of 'covenant renewal'. When situations changed (the death of the lord and the ascension of his successor, the death of the servant and the ascension of his progeny, a change of times due to war or location or whatever, etc.) the covenant was renewed. During that process, the former covenant was still considered binding, except the parts that the change affected. In the case of the covenant of Exodus-Leviticus, the situation was of a traveling and assembling army. By the time of Deuteronomy, the army is fully assembled and ready to go, plus their status as traveling is coming to a close as they descend into their permanent home in the land. This can be seen especially in the change of phrasing in laws from "outside the camp" to something like "outside his people or outside the city". Obviously, a stationary people wouldn't need laws that spoke of "outside the camp", since the "camp" is a traveling phenomemnon. This also clears up the controversy over how much we are actually supposed to tithe, 30% or 10%.


When Jesus comes in the NT, we announces the coming of the kingdom of God and (therefore) a renewed (or new) covenant. His stipulations in the Beatitudes should, I think, be seen in the light of ancient covenant renewal ceremonies, especially as it is ratified in the upper room and at Pentecost. I wonder aloud, then, whether one of the Gospels (I would think Luke-Acts, but I can't speak for certain, it might well be Matthew) is a retelling of the Torah traditions, especially Deuteronomy to emphasize this theological dimension.

So what does this mean?

This means that our understanding of the Torah must be conditioned by the covenant renewal that takes place in and through Jesus and the Spirit. Mouw's modest proposal might have a theological strength that heretofore hasn't been expounded or 'exploited'.

Shalom olam.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


I've been writing a lot about economics and politics on this blog lately. I want to take (a much needed) break from that. I find myself falling back into old habits of arrogance and impatience that doesn't befit a conversation amongst the people of God. So today I want to take a different tack that may have something to say to those issues, but I'm hoping not to directly discuss them. My goal is much more practical and pastoral (for myself mainly), than theoretical.

Today, at assembly, the pastor talked about "modesty" in the sense, largely, of humility. He talked about that passage where James and John are fighting over who will sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in his glory. Jesus replies that God has already chosen who will sit at the sides, so human posturing really will avail nothing. My pastor brought up the distinction between the "theology of the cross" and the "theology of glory" postulated by Luther. Afterwards, we talked a bit and I brought up a little of exegesis from NT Wright about how the other place where "right and left hand" of Jesus and who is at them is during the crucifixion, when the political rebels are the ones at his sides (one believing, one not). I thought it was an interesting tie in between the usually disparate theological strands: the cross is the glory. The Kingdom is shown exactly at the point when all is thought lost and subverted. Instead of being about power, it is about weakness, about submission in the hardest way to tyranny, etc.

That always makes me think. Even though I do not make a lot of money, I live a comfortable, semi-middle class lifestyle. I do not have any political enemies, except in the sense of being classified as "American" with all the enemies of that somewhat mystical entity. There isn't much suffering that isn't self-inflicted (not balancing the checkbook or something like that).

What has Jesus called me to in my life, then? "Take up your cross and follow me..." Wow. Hard. This week I've been reading The Climax of the Covenant, with some helpful insights about what exactly the Church's role in this is. It is too often, I fear, that we view our Christian walk and our Church existence in individualistic terms. Wright really does a fine job bringing an ekklesial focus to the problem:
...And when the church really turns to face this task [evangelism by means of properly understanding Paul--you'll have to read the book for a better explanation], as it must if it is to be ture to its vocation, it will find...that its role is Christ-shaped: to bear the pain and shame of the world in its own body, that the world may be healed. And with this we realize...that there is no room in this hermeneutic for a Christain or ecclesial triumphalism, which is precisely what Paul is opposing in Romans 11. The church is called to do and be for the world what the Messiah was and did for Israel. All that has been said so far must therefore call into question a good deal that is done in and by the church in pursuit of its own security and self-importance. The church must find out the pain of the world, and must share it and bear it.

When that taks is done, then Paul's theology suggests that what we call 'natural evil' will also, finally, be undone. God's covenant purpose was to choose a people in and through whom the world would be healed. That purpose, reaching its climax in the Messiah, is now to be worked out through his people. The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and come to share the liberty of the glory of the children of God; and in the meantime the Church is to share the groaning of the world in the faith that her own groanings are in turn shared by the Spirit. The Spirit thus accomplishes withing the church what, mutatis mutandis [I have no idea what that Latin phrase means], the Torah accomplished within Israel. Just as the sin and death of the world were concentrated, by means of Torah, on Israel, so now the pain and grief of the world is to be concentrated, by means of the Spirit, on the Christos [in Greek font in the original], the family of the Messiah, so that it may be heald (Romans 8:18-30). This is the very antithesis of all Christian triumphalism or imperialism. (256)

How can the ekklesia do this? I notice in myself the desire to not suffer, to not "fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" (Col. 1:24). There is so much affluence, so much classism, so many Western idols that clog my mind and my heart, my whole being, that it is difficult to want to suffer. It brings out a longing for those days of complete consummation of God's purposes when "every tear shall be wiped away, etc.". However, it is there that I notice the suffering of God's people to be at its height. In Revelation 22, it talks about the Gentiles (erroneously, I think, translated "nations" here) of those who are saved and the kings of the earth bringing the glory and honor of the Gentiles into the city, meaning that they are outside of the city. It also talks about how no thing that defiles (i.e. no hardened sinners) come in but are also outside. It talks about how the tree of life provides leaves for the healing of the Gentiles. All these things speak about pain and suffering, especially the Church (the New Jerusalem) bringing the healing to those Gentiles. No utopia here, just more work, more mission, more struggling to bring about God's purposes.

Ekklesia, the world needs you. We need to start praying where the world is in hurt. We need to start emptying ourselves (Philip. 2) where the world wants. God help us. Jesus help us. Spirit help us. Lord have mercy.