Congratulations to Mr. Bush

This was a sound victory for our President. I am glad for this. That being said, Bush has a HUGE task ahead of him. Hopefully he has learned that the nation is split and people are getting tired of many things (including / especially Iraq). Bush really need to show his leadership skills and unite this country, she the nation that he can do great things. Resolution in Iraq, us leaving and letting them rule themselves will be quite important. While I don’t place much importance on how the world views us, I think it will be a long, and probably needed, task to recreate friendships over seas, although I think the most important ones will be with Muslim countries and not necessarily Europe. How Bush handles Iran, North Korea and other such (possibly) volatile situations will be crucial to the strength of our nation and I hope he handles them well, I think he can.

Good luck and God bless to our nation in the next four years. I am looking forward to it.

Shalom

UPDATE: This is a really good statement / paraphrase from Bush’s victory speech: “For those out there that voted for my opponent, I need your support and I will do what I can to earn it.” I think that was a great thing and a needed thing for Bush to say. Now he had better live up to it.

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Going to be a long night – now go vote!

Well it begins. Everyone should go vote regardless of what they hear about who has “already won.”

Such a bad time for this, doesn’t the country know that I need to study for my Old Testament Foundations class? I know I will be up late, oh well.

Good luck to all who are in the races.

It will be interesting to see how the blogosphere reacts tonight and tomorrow. Hopefully we will all take it well when our candidate wins or loses.

Shalom

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Changed your mind?

I have been wondering recently about people casting their vote in a few days (or who have already cast their vote). Has anything caused you to change your mind about who you will be voting for? This could be applied to all office positions, but for this, I do just mean the presidential election. So I pose these questions:

Have you changed your mind from one candidate to another?
Have you changed which party you will be voting for this tome compared to 2000?
What has caused you to change your mind? Friend? Family? A Blog? News? Political Ad (I REALLY hope this isn’t the case – yes, I know not a very objective statement, so sue me)? The debates? Someone one of the candidates said? One particular platform stance? Anything else?

If you haven’t changed your mind, have your reasons for staying with the same candidate changed or been strengthened?

How do you view such things as polls that show one candidate over another and then change 20 minutes later? Have polls changed anything for you?

I am specifically interested to hear if blogs have changed anything for you. I don’t just mean blogs on modblog, but the larger blogosphere – if you pay attention to it that is.

One thing that blingking brought up which I thought was particularly important was how you read the research you do: Do you read in order to confirm your opinions or do you read to create an opinion? I find it very difficult to read many blogs that will take any piece of information and make it fit their agenda/beliefs. Research, ideally, should be done objectively and should therefore create a position – that position could strengthen your current beliefs or it could force you to re-evaluate your beliefs. To be open minded you have to be open to the idea that you may have to change. Blindly following one party is a pitfall.

Thoughts? Comments?

I suppose I could start out answering my own questions.

I have to admit that since 2000 I have changed quite a bit. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I did not vote in 2000 because I didn’t really know who to vote for. I didn’t really look into either candidate. I felt that it was better not to vote rather than vote for someone I know nothing about. Kinda stupid because I should have looked into it more. So one big change is that I have looked into it a lot more, or more specifically have been very impressed with Bush thus far (overall) and so have payed attention to this race a lot more than I ever have before.

That being said, the candidate I will be voting for this time around (Bush) has not changed. Through the campaigns my support for him has strengthened. Political ads have just pissed me off on both sides. Listening to friends and family has been good and debate there always causes one to figure out why one believes what he believes. Blogs have been really interesting in that there is a wealth of knowledge there. (That isn’t always a good thing as Postman has pointed out numerous times.) My bias does come in to play here in that I have largely only read the blogs that have supported Bush (adonai and tonyr), but I also frequent those that try to present the information in a way that makes sense and will allow the reader to make up their own mind (even if they are also biased). I have been really disappointed with the blogs that I have read on the left. They are largely just attacks on Bush and don’t really have substance. atruk, strategery, and thisishardwork have given great sources of entertainment but have had very little substance. They think that spouting out links and news articles equates to substance. They don’t seem to understand that you can take many pieces of information and make them appear to support your cause. Context is so important and many of the leftist blogs seem to ignore it and take anything they can to attack Bush. (Please note that I have only linked to Modblog users, but modblog is actually only a very small percentage of the blogs I read.)

For me it has come to this: In all my reading of blogs, news articles, listening to debates, speeches, and whatever else I have come across, Bush deserves my support. He has been the most truthful and the most realistic with what he wants to do. Kerry continues to do what ever he can to get the vote. I don’t believe anything he says especially when he promises anything and everything to everyone without raising taxes. I don’t support everything Bush does, but he is sound in his values I think. Bush has convictions (that I believe are largely correct) and he follows through with them. Kerry will just say what ever for the vote without actually remaining consistent with a large number of issues.

PS. I am also really tired of people just blindly calling people stupid for following one candidate or the other. I recognize that they are quite intelligent people who will vote either way. If you have a different focus of interest than I do you may vote a different way than I. So people that just call someone stupid or moronic for their political following is fairly ignorant. Ignorance is one thing, stupidity is another. Ignorance should be removed in order to make the most informed decision, that does not mean that I think that if ignorance is removed you will therefore believe exactly as I do. I am just suggesting that much of what I have seen as support is clouded in ignorance and THAT should be removed.

PPS. Feel free to join the discussion over at my post Calling all Conservatives and Liberals!!

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Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”

This is the first version of a book review for my “Theology of Culture” class at Regent. (Yes, I know there are typos and such, as I said this was the first draft.) Unfortunately I had to cut it from over 1600 words down to 1250, that was really difficult.

This is a great book that I recommend to anyone, I also recommend Postman’s other works such as Technopoly, The End of Education, and Conscientious Objections. Postman is great at making critical remarks, although often doesn’t offer too much in the way of suggestions for change (and I don’t that is necessarily a bad thing as I think he sees himself as a social commentator, not necessarily a corrector).

Matt Jones

Regent College

October 22nd, 2004
INDS/THEO 515: The Theology of Culture
John Stackhouse
Word Count: 1659

Book Review #1
Amusing Ourselves to Death:
Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Neil Postman

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.

Neil Postman aims to show how the “Age of Show Business” has changed how public discourse has changed for the worse. In Amusing Ourselves to Death he asserts that we are living in a Huxleyan society and not an Orwellian. “Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us” (viii). The title suggests that, as Huxley did, we will be caught up in the act of watching television and not see its significance and that will kill culture. To be more specific, the subtitle brings it down to public discourse. Discourse in our society has changed throughout the years and Postman suggests that the “age of show business” through the use and prevalence of television will kill culture in the way Huxley suggests.

Postman structures his book in two main parts: Firstly he addresses the setup, historical background of how discourse has been carried out in society and how it has changed. And secondly, he delves into the topics of how television will cause us to “amuse ourselves to death.”

The just of the first part aims to show that there has been a decline in the “Age of Typography” caused by a rise in the “Age of Television” (8). Postman states, “I must, first, demonstrate how, under the governance of the printing press, discourse in America was different from what it is now – generally coherent, serious and rational; and then how, under the governance of television, it has become shriveled and absurd” (16). The five chapters of this part center on that task.

He shows that culture is connected to its conversations and its conversations are formed by the medium in which they take place. Our culture set in the frame of typography was able to use language as a means of complex argument that was pleasurable and common to many areas of the public sphere (47). Through many inventions and events culminating with the introduction of the television, the typography mindset was pushed to the periphery and “as typography moves to the periphery of our culture and television takes its place at the center, the seriousness, clarity and, above all, value of public discourse dangerously declines” (29).

The first five chapters that make up part one move logically from one to the next, setting up the framework. Chapter one shows that, as the title suggests, “The medium is the metaphor.” The medium in which we learn plays an important role because “what important ideas are convenient to express inevitable become the important content of a culture” (6). This leads to chapter two discussing the media as an epistemology. Postman asserts that “the concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression” (22).

He is then concerned that the epistemology of television is inferior to that of print-based epistemology and is, in fact, damaging (27). Because he feels this way, he then launches into chapter three that discusses what our culture was like in the print-based, typographic focus and then shows that mode of discourse leads to a “typographic mind” discussed in chapter four. He then, in chapter five, contrasts those two chapters to prove his assertion of chapter two that television’s epistemology is damaging. Chapter five is the lead in chapter to the larger discussion of how discourse has been damaged by television.

The second part of Postman’s book takes on the challenge of proving his premise. Chapter six discusses “not that television is entertaining but that it has made entertainment itself the natural format for the representation of all experience” (87). The nature of television does not allow complex thought to be achieved or encouraged. It is “bad” television to have a camera on someone who is thinking. This leads into how education is attempted on television but before Postman delves deeper into the discussion of education in chapter ten, he first goes into a discussion of the fragmentation of reality depicted on television and how that leads to trivialities.

“Now… This” has been used widely in television and brings with it the thought that “what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see” (99). Drama is what has become important on television, not content, thus bringing fragmentation to culture. The abundance of information that is presented means nothing because it has no context and has no bearing on our lives; we don’t actually do anything with the information. The shift of discourse from content to entertainment seemed natural and was unchallenged. Chapter eight goes to further his point that television is about entertainment and not content by looking at the specific case of televangelism. While criticizing how televangelizers work, Postman does say “what makes these television preachers the enemy of religious experience is not so much their weaknesses but the weaknesses of the medium in which they work” (117).

Another case example of how television has failed to be a content filled discourse is tackled in chapter nine dealing with politics and how elections use television. “If politics is like show business [which Postman says it is], then the idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty but to appear as if you are, which is another matter altogether” (126). Postman draws similarities between politics and the commercial.

After these two case examples, Postman turns back to education and how it is negatively changed by television. That is the main problem: education is changed by television instead of education controlling television. In the “Age of Television” the classroom is starting to mimic, to become entertainment. Television is also used in the classroom, but because of the nature of the medium, very little context, nor content, is transferred. This section concludes his argument and leads to the final chapter of a “Huxleyan warning” and some suggestions. Postman warns that if it is not recognized what television does and how it should be used, culture will die. This embodies his main suggestion: ask questions. Such examples, but not limited to, are: “How do different forms of information persuade?  How do different information forms dictate the type of content that is expressed?”(160). If these questions can be discussed, it is the first step to taking back television.

Postman argued very well for his stance against television. He did say that “the problem, in any case, does not reside in what people watch. The problem is in that we watch. The solution must be found in how we watch” (160). His argument is well thought out and concise. His argument relied on the premise that in the typography type discourse, culture was well nurtured and cultivated an analytical mind. His first section proved that quite well. One example of how he proved that was the Lincoln-Douglas debates (44ff). The extensive timeframe in which the debates occurred is unthought-of in today’s culture. The only way for such in-depth events to occur would be for people to have the capacity to comprehend what was going on.

Postman also proves his point by comparing the discourse of theologians such as Edwards to that of Falwell implying that Falwell relies more on the television mindset of culture rather than the content filled discourse of the print-based. Through the foundation of what he proves about the print-based discourse, he goes on to prove that the television-based discourse does not work. Using the examples of evangelism, elections, and the more involved topic of education, Postman shows that, indeed, the use of television has negatively affected those areas. The nature of the corruption is not that people view it as being bad, but that it is seen as being good. No one seems to mind that there is very little content provided through television. What is worse is that it is changing education, if content leaves education, then there is no point. Postman sets up each of these examples and uses them to prove his point very effectively.

One thing that impressed my positively about this book was that he laid out his foundations very well. He didn’t just start showing how television is bad, he showed that what it had to say was bad because of the lack of content and fragmentation and was is direct opposition to the print-based discourse. Another than that also impressed my positively was Postman wasn’t complaining about content as a reason for the failure of television. He went much deeper in saying that it is the nature of television and that the horrible thing is that no one sees it. It is easy to complain about the content of television but until the nature and heard of what television can say (as Postman has done) the other complaints are as trivial as the information presented by television.

One thing that impressed me negatively was that Postman did not offer too many suggestions to correct the problem. His main suggestion to ask questions about what television can do and to do that through our educational system is good, but I don’t think it goes deep enough. He did recognize that telling people to get rid of their televisions would not work, but he doesn’t offer much alternative. A second thing that impressed me negatively was his assertion that in the print-based discourse “people had a sense they could control some of the contingencies in their lives” (69) more so than those of the television discourse age. While I agree that people could comprehend the cohesive information being presented to them (for example in the Lincoln-Douglas debates) I don’t think that necessarily leads to people taking action any more than people of today. If they did take action, they were more informed to do so, but I don’t feel that just because people don’t have the content because of the television medium, they act on that information any less (it will just be less informed).

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What do the polls say?

Before I get to the topic at hand, I want to mention that Greek is very difficult. Specifically Koine Greek or Biblical Greek. I am assuming that many of the forms of Greek are hard, but this is the one I am learning so it is all I can speak of. Koine is a form of Attic Greek (that itself was a branch of Ionic, one of the forms of Classic Greek). Kione is the “common” form of Greek that was spoken by the common man as it was a simplified form of classical and therefore doesn’t have some of the subtleties of its more polished predecessor. I seven weeks we have covered all the noun forms and over 66% of the words in the Bible (of course part of this is because words like “and” and “the” are used quite a bit – did you know that in Greek the definite article “the” has 24 different forms?). Anyway, it is a tough language, but I am really excited about learning it. That was quite the digressions, so if you feel like you will never have those two minutes back, I am sorry.

On to the topic at hand. Polls. What do the polls say? My answer: who cares? I have many problems with polls. As far as polling goes I think that election polls are probably the most accurate and by that, I still mean not very accurate. Depending on who you talk to the presidential polls will say different things. I have seen numerous maps that show what the polls are telling us… Bush is going to win! No wait, Kerry is going to win! No wait…

http://vodkapundit.com/archives/KerryWin.jpg

http://vodkapundit.com/archives/BushWin.jpg

http://www.electoral-vote.com/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/vote2004/politics101/politics101_ecmap.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/election-test-fl,0,1851284.flash

http://synapse.princeton.edu/~sam/pollcalc-map-undecideds-assigned.html

Got the idea? And these are just a few of the maps you can find doing a google search. What does this mean? It means that polls are completely useless. I like I said, election polling are the most accurate form of polls we have. Who do you want to win? A? B? or maybe C? Pretty cut and dry, and yet we have no consistency with the electoral college maps, predictions based on current polls and past trends just do not work. WHY BOTHER? There really is no reason to continue with this as it just makes people either feel good about themselves or feel bad and have something to complain about (yes ironic that I am complaining).

Other types of polls are even worse. Questions are often asked completely out of context and often about subjects that people don’t understand or even know about. How is that data to be explained? Even “yes” or “no” questions will not give great answers depending on how the question is asked. I always think of the “poll” – Dihydrogen oxide is a number one leading cause of death throughout the world and yet our country spends loads of money to work with this deadly chemical. Do you think this chemical should be banned?” What do you think folks?

I am reading a book by Neil Postman (that I will post a review of later) and I am reminded of some of his comments in another of his social commentaries: Technopoly. I will start with an example he poses: “Two priests who, being unsure if it was permissible to smoke and pray at the same time, wrote to the Pope for a definite answer. One priest phrased the question “Is it permissible to smoke while praying?(126)” and was told it is no, since prayer should be the focus of one’s whole attention; the other priest asked if it is permissible to pray while smoking and was told that it is, since it is always appropriate to pray.” Questions asked are of huge importance. Getting back to the specifics of polls I draw, again, on Postman’s Technopoly. Making up an example he suggests: “The latest poll indicates that 72% of the American public believes we should withdraw economic aid from Nicaragua. Of those who expressed this opinion 28% thought Nicaragua was in central Asia, 18% thought it was an island near New Zealand, and 27.4% believed that ‘Africans should help themselves,’ obviously confusing Nicaragua with Nigeria. Moreover, of those polled, 61.8% did not know that we give economic aid to Nicaragua, and 23% did not know what ‘economic aid’ means.(135)” Eventhough this is a fictitious example, you can see how it can cause problems in real world situations. The chances are, the only thing that gets reported is that 72% of Americans thing economic aid should be withdrawn. This is reasonable to assume because the other questions are genearlly not even asked.

The other issue with polls, which has already been hinted at, is that that the public is given the chance to speak and give opinions about things they know very little about. I believe people should continue learning and always seek to know more and if you have knowledge about something, please feel free to comment on it, if not, you should sit back and listen and learn but just keep quiet. This also makes me think of celebrities who know very little but have much exposure say anything about everything and people actually listen to what they have to say. The problem with this is that when people,celebrities or not, spout off about that which they don’t know it creates a problem in that it is hard to listen to anyone. If I hear 30 people, who don’t know what they are talking about go off on something it is going to be very difficult for me to listen to that 31st person, even if they really do know what they are talking about. (I have way too many run-on sentences, sorry)

This has been somewhat fragmented, but here are my concluding thoughts: Don’t listen to polls. Go and try and make a difference in things if you can and to do that you will have to become educated about things. I am glad when people in authority don’t necessarily follow polls or public opinion. Do what is right, learn about something before you comment on it. Political polls can show anything you want them to, just ask the right questions. Go vote on the 2nd, don’t pay attention to the maps.

Shalom

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“Theology, Music and Time” by Jeremy Begbie

Here is my first book review at Regent. The parenthetical references refer to the page number in the book. This was really difficult in that my first draft was 1800 words and that was already somewhat slim. I had to then get it down to 1500! The guidelines were as follows: Explain title and how it relates to subject, thesis, and purpose. Set out the basic structure of the book. Evaluate the book. Two things that impressed positively and negatively. All in 1500 words! Here it is!

Matt Jones
Regent CollegeOctober 4th, 2004
INDS 500: The Christian Life (Section B)
John Stackhouse
Word Count: 1497

Book Review #1
Theology, Music and Time
Jeremy S. Begbie

Begbie, Jeremy S. Theology, Music and Time. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Jeremy Begbie, in his book, Theology, Music and Time, strives to show the connection between the three nouns in his title. He aims to show that theological understanding can come through music and its relation to time. “Here we try to show how the experience of music can serve to open up features of a distinctively theological account of created temporarily, redeemed by God in Jesus Christ, and what it means to live and with time as created creatures” (7). Begbie’s title is a straightforward assertion of his subjects with theology and music being the most important and time being the medium in which a relation is formed between the other two. His motive for this task is his “guiding conviction” that music can serve to enrich and advance theology, extending our wisdom about God, God’s relation to us and to the world at large” (3).

He structures his book under three main categories: ‘Introduction’, ‘In God’s good time’, and ‘Time to improvise’. Each of these main categories includes subcategories relating to the main theme. The introduction outlines what Begbie hopes to achieve as well as give a jumping off point into the two other main themes. The first subcategory deals with the actual capabilities of music to “say” anything. He talks about the relationship between music-making, music-hearing, and our emotions. This discussion leads into the next subcategory pertaining to the nature of time and the temporal relationship to music as “the production and reception of music deeply implicates physical realities and these realities are themselves time-laden” (31). This subcategory goes into a discussion about the past, present and future which deals with time existing and how we perceive it. Music should not be looked at as moving through time, but that time is its medium (67). The main goal of the introductory chapters is to define relationships and characteristics associated with time and briefly relate those to theology. After time is introduced, the next category naturally arises: its relation to God.

“In God’s good time” combines the nature of time with what we can learn theologically through music. The first question that arises is whether time is a good gift from God or if it is merely a threat to us. Music demonstrates that change through time does not necessarily imply chaos or a negative view of time. There has arisen a view that suggests “that because something takes time to be what it is, it is thereby of deficient value or goodness compared to that which is not subject to created time” (86). Music is in direct opposition to that and therefore cannot, in this sense, be rushed and therefore cultivates patience (87). Time is divinely created and should be looked upon as such. This talk of time as a medium takes us to the first subcategory that deals with tensions and resolutions that are created in music. “Through its layered patterns of tension and resolution, music relies for much of its effect on generating a sense of the incompleteness of the present, that not all is now given” (99). Begbie then delves into a discussion on metrical waves. Metrical waves are used to show how tensions and resolutions are patterns that occur at multiple levels (from single bars to entire pieces). “The more levels resolution involves, the greater sense of an immanent final closure” (107). Music can show that the end of something is actually a beginning of something else. The next subcategory follows from the discussion of finality and the eternity of God. Begbie goes into the next subcategory and deals with the relationship between repetition and the sacrament of the Eucharist. In music, repetition is used heavily and does not get boring because repetition is natural to music. The complexities in metrical waves through their tensions and resolutions reveal that nothing is ever exactly the same, even in repetition. This is important in the ritual of the Eucharist because we are called into something holy that should never become stagnant. The liturgical nature of repetition leads to the next main category that offers a different view of how music relates to theology.

“Time to Improvise” moves away from a highly structured view of music to that of improvisation. The three sub-sections show that the practice of musical improvisation correlate to the “theology of freedom, election and ecclesiology” (269). Areas such as giving, constraints within freedom, creativity and tradition are all crucial points in this category and subcategories.

Begbie did a very thorough job of relating time to music and theology and then using that foundation showed that there were many principles in music that can offer insight to us about the theological understanding of God. Our understanding of Jesus’ saving grace is heightened by Begbie’s discussion of tension and resolve; our understanding of the Eucharist would benefit from the musical standpoint of repetition; and our desire to give might be lacking without the arguments put forth by his discussion of improvisation. Those three theological examples are merely samples of what Begbie has been able to in this book. He was able to argue quite extensively for his position and didn’t seem to leave anything out. This is a difficult subject to make any very definite claims about as music is not something tangible. It is not possible to say “this equals that” because music is not descriptive in that manner. Begbie was aware of that and addressed it. What he did was show that there are some very direct relations that can be applied to music and theology. Begbie never asserts that music can be used as a primary authority when learning theology, what he does do very well is to show, through music, that you can learn subtle nuances, reaffirm certain theological beliefs that are held as well as gain new insight. “Examining the temporarily of music has elicited conceptual tools -ways of thinking, models, frameworks, metaphors – for exploring, clarifying and re-conceiving the dynamics of God’s world and his ways with the world” (271).

One thing that impressed me negatively was his somewhat over extensive discussion of time. As time was one of the major themes of the book it makes sense to have a formal discussion of its nature. I felt that, at times, Begbie went too far, especially in his discussion of the nature of the past, present and future. I believe his arguments would still be valid without going into details about how some people think the past and future don’t really exist in certain ways. I feel that what was most important was relating time to its divine creation and how temporality affects music. The other discussions seemed to be superfluous.

Another thing that impressed upon me negatively was that he didn’t use as many examples as I would have liked. There were many places, especially in the discussion of metrical waves that Begbie could have brought in examples from the Bible to show how they are used. He did bring up the main examples to show tension and resolve and how that relates to promise and fulfillment, but I feel he could have pulled some examples in especially to show how metrical waves have many different layers.

That being said about examples, his discussion about promise and fulfillment did impress me in quite a positive way. The nature of Biblical promises has always interested me in that they were always fulfilled but not necessarily in the way we (including the original people) thought it would. “Fulfillments, far from lessening hope for resolution, serve to heighten it” (106). Fulfilled promises in the Bible are not a final word, they are pointing to something more and that is a great thing that music alludes to. The “very conclusion in Christ, climactic and utterly decisive as it may be, also brings with it an intensification and an enrichment of the promise originally made to Abraham” (109). The tensions and resolutions throughout the Bible are very artistic and all come to the final conclusion when Jesus returns and the Kingdom of God is fully realized.

“It is because the universe is so finely tuned to produce life, but only through the process of death, that death receives from life the highest possible tribute and value – it is not possible to have life on any other terms than those of death; but where you do have death, there immediately you have the possibility of life” (92). This concept put forth by Begbie also impressed me positively. Christians live in this world where we are in the “now” but “not yet” and are continually dealing with death. Music greatly points out that through death there is new life. This is a great comfort in our daily lives when we see death around us but also eternally where we can find that promise of everlasting life through Jesus Christ. I was very glad that Begbie pointed this out as I have never related musical themes to the nature of death and new life.

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Verbage? Verbiage?

I have found it funny that some of my inbound linking have come from search engines where people are looking for “Birthday card verbage” or “Thank you verbage” or something along those lines. I find this funny for a few reasons. It is interesting that my title which is supposed to represent a combination of Verbiage and Garbage actually gets external links because people often misspell Verbiage. Also, why are people searching for verbiage about a birthday card? For one, can’t you just be original and yourself? And secondly, verbiage means “An excess of words for the purpose; wordiness.” I have NEVER gotten a card where I was glad someone was wordy. I would rather it be short, sweet, and to the point, or better yet, just give me the two bucks for the card and write “happy birthday” across Washington’s face.

So the question arises: Should I change my title? Does using “verbage” just make me look silly, or is it clever enough to keep as a title?

Anyway, just a few thoughts before class.
Shalom

PS. Edgar is done with baseball :( And the darn tv stations up here didn’t play the M’s last two games. I really wanted to see “Edgar Day” oh well, maybe someone got it on tape or something. Melvin was fired today, not too surprised about that, nor am I too upset.

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The Nature of Hell

I just got out of my Old Testament Foundations class here at Regent and an interesting topic was raised. Essentially the question came down to hell, eternity, and its nature. Iain Provan answered in a wonderful way, that I had never though of before. I will “warn” you now, this may not be how you have though of hell before. I challenge you, as well as myself, to think about this. I will attempt to do some more research in order to find some Biblical support for this as well (which he did not directly do in class as this was supposed to be a “brief” question at the end of class). I also invite any non-Christians to offer comments and thoughts on this as well.

This, I would say, is the common belief about hell: You have not accepted the Gift that Christ has offered in His saving grace. You are therefore damned by your sin / sinful nature to hell. Hell is full of fire and brimstone that you are stuck in for eternity in pain and suffering. Sound about right?

The first part I agree with. Sin without salvation, unfortunately does lead to hell. At this point I could get in a long discussion on how this truly is Godly and is not what God wants, nor intends for people. I will say this: It would be inconsistent with God to pretend, at the end, that sin did not exist. To say that God loves so therefore we can just “go” (which is another issue I will talk about on another day) to heaven does not follow from the nature of God. Sins have consequences that we all must be held accountable for. As Christians we recognize this fact that hand our sins over to God which he has then paid for by sacrificing His Son / Himself in agonizing pain at Golgotha. If you do not accept this payment for our sins, you are still to be held accountable. Therefore it is consistent with the character of God to allow hell to exist.

What happens in and during hell may be somewhat different that what you have heard or thought of before. Provan essentially suggests that hell is not eternal. Now hold on, because he is not suggesting what you are now thinking. This does not mean that people essentially “pay” for their sins by their tenure in hell and then are allowed into heaven. That possibility left when they made decisions while they were still on earth as we know it. What he is suggesting is this: Hell is essentially designed as a place of reflection and coming to terms with your sin. (it is still painful, fire, brimstone, gnashing of teeth, etc…) Through this reflection you come to realize the sovereignty of God and His true nature and desires. Again, this does not mean that you can get out now In order to remain consistent with God’s love this cannot go on forever. If it did, it would imply a few things. Firstly it would imply that eternally there is a place in which God does not occupy. This is not consistent with the all encompassing eternity of God. Secondly it would imply that God will allow eternal suffering which I think is inconsistent with His love. Provan suggests that in order to remain consistent with God’s love and justice, those in hell would eventually cease to exist.

Doing some brief research, I have not found any instance where reference to hell suggest an eternity there. Nor have I found anything that would suggest that you can get out of hell. That is all got right now. Provan had some more insight that I am forgetting now and was more eloquent, but so be it :) If you want me to do more research on the matter, please let me know. What do you think? Comments? Questions?

Shalom

Addendum:
In Revelation, Satan is thrown into a pit for a 1000 years, after that he comes back and is then bound and thrown into hell with the rest. It seems that he is actually thrown into the same place – hell – as everyone else.

I am not sure how widely accepted it is, I will have to ask him for more details. I would say that the reason he has come to this conclusion is because the Bible supports it, God’s nature is found there which leads to this conclusion. The only place I can find that goes against this in in Revelation: 20:10 “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

Now that does seem to go directly against this theory. Although let me make a few comments on that. First is that Revelation is apocalyptic literature and therefore cannot always be taken literally. It is poetry. I am not going to go much further than this as I have not studied apocalyptic literature and therefore cannot make any claims to this passage and how literal it is to be taken. Second is that it could simply mean that the theory that Provan suggested today does not apply to the devil and his helpers (the Antichrist and false prophet). They theory could still remain entirely valid as I think it is supported by God’s nature, and just doesn’t apply for the ultimate deceiver. Anyway, that is what I have come up with. Any thoughts there?

Everything the Bible has said does suggest that hell is, indeed, a real and literal place. Both the OT and the NT make claims of its existence in many forms of literature.

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Discussion of “Christ and Culture” by Niebuhr

Here is my first brief paper discussion on Richard Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture”. There were also a lot of good things that I didn’t think of that were brought up in discussion. I would definitely recommend this book to others, but it will take a while to get through. This is not an essay and therefore is not written in essay for and not always in complete sentences, deal with it :)

Matt Jones
Regent College
Theology of Culture
John Stackhouse
Word Count: 1077

Christ and Culture Discussion Paper

1. What is “the enduring problem,” and why does it “endure”?

The enduring problem with discussion of Christ and Culture is that there are many ways to view how Christ relates to culture. The Bible can support multiple theories of how we should relate to culture. It is not explicit about one particular way we are supposed to interact with culture. Jesus makes many statements that can give credible support to the five types of interaction that Niebuhr outlines. Also, many strong and influential Christians throughout the ages have been “members” of each of these types suggesting that belief of one type or the other does not make a person a better or worse Christian.

2. Briefly define each of Niebuhr’s five types

Christ against culture: Christ is here to claim authority over the earth and therefore throws out all ideas of culture. Culture is bad and sin is transmitted through it. This type “affirms the sole authority of Christ over the Christian and resolutely rejects culture’s claims to loyalty.” Typically seen as “either-or”. This group is essentially separatist in belief that culture should be rejected. All forms of activity in culture (military, political, etc…) should not occur. The monastic tradition is one representative of this type.

Christ of culture: Christ defines what culture is. He is a “guide of men in all their labor.” Problem that arises with this is that what that culture is is looked at through a particular culture and is often ascribe those values. “Christianity itself needed to be regarded as an ellipse with two foci, rather than as a circle with one center. One focus was justification or the forgiveness of sins; the other, ethical striving for the attainment of the perfect society.” This Christ also give man power over nature. Often looked at as being two-minded: having a loyalty to both Christ and civilization. Wants society to be peaceful and co-operative which will achieve these things by moral training. Jesus as a great enlightener is a common them. Gnostic tradition takes the enlightener theme especially. Kant and Leibnitz are two of the main proponents of this type. Jesus as hero.

Christ above culture: This group is similar to the second group in that it sees Christ as “the fulfillment of cultural aspirations and the restorer of the institutions of true society.” The difference is that their view of Christ incorporates aspects of Christ that are not part of, nor belong to, culture. Christ uses culture to point to himself as savior but the other characteristics are what actually save man. He gives capabilities that humans could not conceive of. Thomas Aquinas is seen as a major representative.

Christ and culture in paradox: This group is similar to the Christ against culture type in that the see Christ at opposition to culture but differ in that they do not feel removal from society should happen. “Obedience to God requires obedience to the institutions of society and loyalty to its members as well as obedience to a Christ who sits in judgment on that society.” Luther is seen as the greatest representative of this type.

Christ the transformer of culture: Also called the “conversionist” type. Similar to first and fourth group in that they see that culture has been perverted and is fallen but differ in that this group see Christ as a person who is the “converter of man in his culture and society, not apart from these, for there is no nature without culture and not turning of men from self and idols to God save in society.” This means that, while culture is the transmitter of sin, Christ still uses culture to save and redeem man. John Calvin and Augustine are two of the key figures of this type.

3. Is there a difference (for Niebuhr? For you?) between “Christ and Culture” and “Church and Culture”?

I do believe that Niebuhr sees a difference between Christ/Culture and Church/Culture. The Church must evaluate the culture that it is in and respond to it in an appropriate manner. Christ did the same thing except that Christ was only responsible to God. The Church is responsible not only to God but also its members. The Church’s members are also part of culture and will relate the Christ differently and therefore the church will have to take that into consideration.

I would say that there, at the heart, is not a difference between how Christ relates to culture and how the church SHOULD relate to culture. Christ looked at the culture He was in a told stories, talked to people, challenged people, in a way that would make sense in that culture. If He had come today, in our culture, he would have done things differently. He still would have looked at the culture and told stories, talked to people, and challenged people, but he would have done in it a way that was relevant to our culture. Some things would look the same, some things would look drastically different.

4. What is one thing that impressed you positively, and one thing that impressed you negatively, about this book?

One thing that impressed me positively about this book is that Niebuhr did a wonderful job of outlining five ways of thinking about the relationship between Christ and culture. He goes on to say that there are many ways of dealing with this topic but I would imagine that it would be a very strenuous task to delve into the many possibilities on our own. Niebuhr did us a great service of bringing out the most important types of relation and giving us a deep understanding of what those types are as well as why they have been thought.

One thing that impressed me negatively about this book was its style or tone. To me it was somewhat difficult to read. I found it similar, in my mind, to reading the King James version of the Bible: the content is there and wonderful but because of how it was written it made it somewhat of a slow read. I felt that at some places passages were overly difficult but only so because of his style of writing. It is definitely an academic book and should be read as such and part of it is me needed to change, or at least prepare, for different ways to get across information.

A good point that was brought up in discussion was that Niebuhr says that we should not pass judgement on the different types of relation, but I would disagree with that. Some views of relation are supported only when viewing particular Bible passages out of context and that should definitely be judged. Otherwise you get the idea that you can make the Bible what you want of it and truth becomes relative.

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Prayer requested

Hey all. My step sister (Jeni) has been having seizures for the past month or so and went in for an MRI. It showed a growth in her brain (fibrous dysplasia – connective tissue attached to the bone). Apparently she has had it since birth and it has been growing and has started to put pressure on her brain, specifically near the optic nerve. She talked to a neurosurgeon and he said that it is essentially inoperable and will continue to grow. He said that she has a year or less to live.

This has obviously come as quite a shock. She may be getting a second opinion and look in to other options. I guess surgery is possible but very unlikely to work and if it did there is a large chance that she would lose her hearing and sight. For Jeni that would probably not be an option.

Please pray for a few things. First that she would be miraculously healed by God. Second, and actually most important regardless of healing, would be that she comes to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Thirdly for my mom and step-dad, especially Bob. Not sure what else to say about that.

For some reason that has hit me particularly hard. I think it is because this is the first time someone somewhat close to me could die without knowing Jesus. My dad dying was extremely difficult, of course, but this is different. When my dad died, or my grandparents, they were all Christian. I knew that they would be in Glory. I will see them again. It is hard to sit back and not be able to do anything about Jeni. Please pray that she would come to know God. May God have mercy.

Shalom

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