Blogger seems to have eaten my entry from Monday, but thankfully I suspected it was playing silly devils so I saved the post and have reposted it, I think I may have lost a comment from sven though. Today is the day when I hack my essays down to size, which is always a painful process. I'll be glad to give them in tomorrow though, which is my last day of lectures, ever! (Well, until I do a post-grad. degree anyway, probably in retrirement;) ) Looking forward to the Easter weekend, when my sister Rachel, with her husband Karl and baby Jamie are coming up for the weekend. They're the family in the pictures on flickr, by the way. Cool article on the BBC about flickr here, seems it's becoming the photo sharing website of choice for many bloggers, oh.. and Yahoo!
We had our last lecture on the gospel of John today. This has been a fascinating course on an amazing book. Someone once said that the gospel of John is like a pool that's safe for a child to paddle in but deep enough for an elephant to swim in, and I can certainly see the truth in this. It's definitely simple, and yet profound at the same time with hidden depths of meaning. (Although, one of my fellow students did make the rather bizarre claim that he didn't see any symbolism in John)...mmm let's see... Jesus: I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. Nicodemus: You mean I need to enter into my mother's womb a second time? Jesus: Yes
I must admit I was a little disappointed this year when I found out that we wouldn't be taught NT by Dr. Moxon who was my favourite lecturer, but Michael has more than made up for it with his southern drawl, great sense of humour and inexhaustible fountain of knowledge. (this is called creeping, I want an A ok?) I'm getting there with my essay, 1900 words, or 2300 including notes, 3 days 'til deadline. Michael sprung a surprise part time job opportunity on me today. He has been assisting John Hull a blind professor at Queen's college. It turns out he needs another assistant so I went to meet him and had a quick chat. If I'm suitable and I can fit it in around my studies it should be an interesting little sideline.
Spent the day working on my essay on the sacraments in John's gospel. Finished off the reading, made about 1500 words of notes but only actually wrote about 400 words. Still, not a bad start. Had to give Su the airport express base station to remove the internet temptation. Suzy went shopping with a friend to the Bullring and came back with a pressie!
Well, I've fallen behind on the daily blogging thing a bit. I'd like to say it's because I've been so busy writing my gospel of John essay, but I haven't made much progress on that either. Went 10 pin bowling last night. I was the only bloke in the group so I held off a bit to give the girls a chance. Scored 168. So, it was Paddy's day today. I'd forgotten until I went past a pub in Coventry and saw a bloke coming out with one of those big, silly, green hats. Michael almost missed it too. St. Patrick is one of those people who I would love to know more about. Blogs to the rescue! Here, here and here are some reflections (all from Americans I might add). sven bemoans all the fake Irish folk just looking for an excuse to down a few pints of the black stuff. This reminds me of my student days. All I can say is: lots of black stuff in one end in the evening = lots of black stuff out the other end the following morning.
Another Meeting Place night tonight. Went really well, nice atmosphere, good conversation. I talked about Jesus healing the man born blind, the 6th sign in John's gospel. I think this is one of my favourite stories in the gospel. The guy starts off a blind beggar and ends up seeing Jesus face to face and worshipping him. This is the story of every Christian, in a way. The story reads really well, and everyone seemed to be listening intently, which is quite rare. Got chatting to one of the guys who has been coming for years, who is a spiritualist (and possibly schizophrenic to boot). He was telling me of his conversations with Sigmund Freud, someone called Saint Emilion, and his wife (who has been dead for 27 years). Never quite sure how to react when someone tells you stuff like this. I usually just smile and nod, occasionally suggesting that he shouldn't believe everything the spirits say 'cos they're liars. Another guy was brought up Roman Catholic, then spent years as a Mormon and now doesn't know what he believes. Another guy is an alcoholic self-harmer who describes himself as a Goth/Neo Pagan. Another is a guy who describes himself as a Christian but who rejects the whole Old Testament. In other words, quite an interesting bunch. It is just an amazing privilege to be able to share something of Jesus with these people. Crazy, mixed up, messed up, broken people, who God loves and sent His son for. A lot of people there think I'm training to be a vicar. 'When do you get your dog collar?' they ask. I try and explain that I'm not actually in the Church of England, but as noone's really heard of the Vineyard it's hard to explain without making it sound like a cult. I say it's kinda like the Church of England but with jeans and hoodies.
And now for something completely different : This post from sven is pure genius. It manages to send up the religious right, the Da Vinci code, feminists and goodness knows what else all at once.
Theologian Stan Grenz has passed away following a brain haemorrhage. A ton of people have blogged this already. e.g. Jason Clarke, but I thought I'd chip in a little tribute too. Before I started my theology degree, I read Who needs theology? which he co-authored. This book made me realise how exciting, relevant and vital the study of theology can be, far from the dry and dusty subject that many believe it to be. A lot of people have written about postmodernism. Much of this writing is confusing, ill-informed or reactionary. Stan's primer on postmodernism is none of these, and is probably the best introduction to the subject I have read. I know Stan was a much loved and highly influencial figure and will be sorely missed. Brian McLaren gives a eulogy here.
I've gone back in time! I'm showing my free church ignorance of tradition here. I was pondering how come I could be on day 30 of Lent when there is over 2 weeks left 'til Easter. Then I remembered that the Sundays in Lent don't count, 'cos they are feast days! I was four days ahead. Good job I realised or else I'd have been celebrating Easter on the day after Palm Sunday. I was pleased to discover the blog of my one of my lecturers, Michael Strickland. Go easy on him, he's a Mirkin.
Had to do a 10 minute presentation this morning for my hermeneutics class on African-American black theology. Impossible to cover in 10 minutes of course but it was fun to research. I have always been fascinated by the civil rights movement in the '60s (must be all that listening to Public Enemy as a teenager). Found myself listening to some Martin Luther King speeches yesterday, which I always find incredibly moving. The famous I have a dream one at the 1963 March on Washington, and even more amazing the "I've been to the mountaintop" in Memphis 1968, which must have been one of the last speeches, if not the last one he gave before he was murdered, and he knew it was coming. The rest of the class did South African black theology, Chinese Christianity, Korean Christianity, and Feminist hermeneutics, speaking of which, interesting article on women in the New Testament by Kenneth Bailey here.
Lent (and life in general) is going too fast. I can't believe we're four weeks into it, with only a couple of weeks left 'til Easter (and the end of term). Too knackered to think of anything much to blog. Su's dad came out of hospital today which is pretty cool.
I'm supposed to be restricting myself to only reading stuff directly related to my course at the moment, which I mostly am. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow of what's on your mind though. So here's the latest bunch : Lent Reading :
Following on with the atonement theme, here is one that I picked up a while a go but have just been dipping into recently, this is one of the ones underlying some of Steve Chalke's ideas I think.
Talking of scandal, here is the new one from Ron Sider (always good for a bit of a wake-up call). For anyone familiar with Dalllas Willard's stuff, this covers very similar ground. Arguing for a holistic gospel that takes seriously structural sin as well as personal, discipleship rather than 'cheap grace' and an all round kick up the backside for evangelicals :
In Jesus and the Victory of God, Tom Wright had a section on how the story of the prodigal son retold the story of the exile and restoration of Israel. Well, after he'd written that chapter, here is the book that he said he kicked himself after seeing :
Jacob and The Prodigal - How Jesus Retold Israel's Story by Kenneth E. Bailey
finally, in our 3rd year Old Testament studies we have to look at mostly critical stuff which questions much of the historicity of the OT. Just to keep some balance, here's a tour de force from the great Kenneth Kitchen which calls into question many of the critical assumptions :
That lot should keep me busy for now! I've decided that when I finish my degree, I'm going to take a complete fast from reading, see how I can cope.
Went out for dinner tonight at one of my lecturer's homes. Michael and Mary are from Alabama, and we had some proper southern chilli, which is quite possibly my favourite food. Lew (another guy from college) and I took our guitars round and attempted to play some country music to make them feel at home. Mike wanted us to work out this little gem, but we're not quite there yet. Had a wonderful evening, with lots of great conversation.
Just realised I have now written more blog entries in the last 23 days than in the previous 6 months combined! It's getting more difficult though, as the days go by. I keep finding myself at the end of the day, tired and then thinking 'oh I need to do my blog.' I never was any good at keeping a journal. I've finished my 'Daniel' essay. I've just got to get it down from 2750 words (it's meant to be 2000). If I can get it under 2500 I think I'll just give it in.
So who was the 'Son of Man' to the original readers? Well, that obviously begs the question - who were the original readers? This has been one of the most hotly debated topics in OT studies. The traditonal answer has been that it was written by Daniel, in Babylon, in the 6th C BC. Most modern scholars prefer a date in the Maccabean period, 2nd century BC, in Palestine. Largely the debate has revolved around the view of prophecy. Daniel 11 describes a 'prophetic' vision which describes the events leading up to Antiochus Epiphanes stopping of the daily temple sacrifice in 167 BC with a high degree of accuracy. If you don't believe that prophecy can do this sort of thing then it must have been written after the event. However, John Goldingay makes it clear that he does believe God can do this sort of thing, but still argues for a 2nd century date. I'm fairly agnostic on this one I think, I agree with Goldingay when he says 'Whether the stories are history or fiction, the visions actual prophecy or quasi-prophecy, written by Daniel or by someone else, in the 6th century, or the second, or somewhere inbetween, makes surprisingly little difference to the book's exegesis.'
The phrase 'son of man' just means man or human being. This is true in the 6th or the 2nd century, but I suspect what my lecturer means is 'what could it have symbolised?' Here are the candidates : The interpretation given in the passage implies that the 'one like a Son of Man' refers to the 'holy ones of the most high' This could mean : All the saints on earth Israel A subset of Israel Angels A combination Angels and Israel
Taking the figure as an individual, the following have been suggested : Michael Gabriel A divine figure inspired by the god Marduk! A divine figure inspired by Baal! A divine figure A messianic figure: A Davidic king A high priest A cosmic messiah
The messianic interpretations are obviously drawn from the fact that Jesus used the "son of man" as his favourite way of referring to himself, but there is very little evidence that anyone read the passage this way until the first century. I think that all the individual/angelic stuff confuses the symbol in the vision for the thing it is intended to symbolise, so the most likely answer is Israel (or faithful Israel). So when Jesus used the phrase he was using it in a new way. Not only was he claiming to be Israel, but the figure who represents Israel who must suffer but will be vindicated by God. so there!
'let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing'. I found this Brian McLaren stuff posted by dave paisley on public worship as spiritual formation really useful in thinking through some of the reasons we gather on a Sunday for worship. He has such a helpful way of putting things sometimes. Of course, over and above all this spiritual formation stuff is the primary reason for worshiping together - to respond to God's love for us by offering ourselves back to Him, giving Him the praise, thanks and glory He deserves and putting him at the centre of our lives.
Meeting place again tonight. It was really busy but it seemed to go quite well. Spoke about the feeding of the 5000. We sang the same hymns we sing every single week : At The Name of Jesus, The Day Thou Gavest Lord Has Ended, Amazing Grace, Oh Jesus I Have Promised, Oh Lord My God, When I in Awesome Wonder, Majesty, actually we didn't do Abba Father, which I think is a first. Su has gone to visit her dad. He seems to be doing quite well and the doctors are really pleased with how things have gone. Please continue to pray for him, if you have a moment. Have to get up at an unearthly hour tomorrow morning, in order to get to college for 8.30, to lead 10 minutes of worship, then come home again as I have nothing else for the rest of the day. The sacrifices one makes! I know lots of people have to leave the house at 6.30 or even earlier, but for me it's HARD. I'm afflicted with laziness and it's not my fault, ok?