Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Eras of Thinking

OT112 is my intro to the old testament class. it is quickly becoming a favorite. i really enjoy my theology class but this one is just awesome! it's amazing what a huge load of impressions and biases we bring when we read the hebrew bible.

Val asks me every Sunday "what was the fav. thing you learned this week?!" and then listens to me babble (much like you are reading this babble dear reader). either by loving and wonderful sister is really interested or she's really good a faking but i don't really care because it's a nice question and it shows that she supports me and is at least interested.. or has the courtesy to fake interest ;-)

so here's my favorite brain candy from last week! i learned about the three eras of biblical interpretation/philosophical thought.

before we start some would claim that the bible is a self-interpreting book. if that was so we'd have no ministers nor seminaries nor commentaries or arguments about the bible. the bible always had to be intrepreted. here's how:

1.)Pre-Modern Thought cira 100 c.e.
scriptures have multiple levels of meaning and there's no one way to do it but the bottom line is that all scripture is good to and supports the church.
Famous Dudes: Augustine, Origen

2.) The Enlightenment Modernism peak at 1600-1700s c.e.
bible is a rational book. Spinoza summed it up best with "Things happened in natural laws. what is contrary to nature is contray to reason. anything contrary was added by irreligious hands." adds the natural and social sciences into the study of the bible. period where the historical/literary criticisms develop. this periods thought belives TRUTH is an independent entity, just see the famous literature written at this time... the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

"The modern mind assumes that knowledge is certain, objective, and good. in principle, knowledge is accessible to the human mind" -Stanley Grenz

3.) Post-Modern 1940s-present
"Morning after Modern" people are no longer convinced that knowledge is inherently good and the universe is not mechanistic. reality is realitive, indeterminate, and participatory. Quantum Physics= everything is realitive.

so this was pretty cool way of looking at how the bible has been thought of and how humanity has come along in it's thinking. this also leads into the very nature of the Bible... is it a codebook (i.e. literal) or casebook (i.e. open ended). there is an article i read that argues that it's a casebook. a codebook requires precision, example from construction: one build-to-code, exact no straying from it. a casebook requires reflection and application. i take this stance as a casebook can take a series of examples and reflect a variety of responses under varied circumstances. it is this open-ended application that makes the bible such a holy book and such a long lasting tool for people.

this also leads to the very nature of the bible.. is it a history or collection of stories to help an exiled people define their identity? more on this later!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Theological Worlds

This past week we had an intensive introduction to seminary life which culminated in a retreat. All during this week we were challenged to be open to other methods of practice and "doing" religion. We did so by visiting churches and LOTS of class discussion and self-reflection. I loved it!

A prime component of all of this was our "Theological Worlds Test". There is a book by a hermit called Theological Worlds: Understanding the Alternative Rhythms of Christian Belief by W. Paul Jones which stipulates that all religions and reasons why people are drawn to particular Churches is that we are driven by a certain primal fear. So the way we see the world and interact in it is all based on what "world" we happen to reside in.

This is a great, ministry-changing idea as it helps one understand where ppl are coming from. it explains why particular ideas, sermons, bible passages, hymns, etc. resonate with some and not with others. All of these worlds are scriptural represented and supported. here is a quick run down:

World One: Orphan-- primal fear: all is not well! this is not my true home!
Life is: journey home to a place of protection. Heaven!
God is: loving parent, ultimate security (rock of ages)
Jesus is: link between here and "home/heaven", divine window
Church is: described in family images, a warm place.
Preachers act surrogate parents of God's family
Pop Culture Reference: Wizard of Oz (this isn't Kansas!)

World Two: Crusader-- primal fear: could be happy here, someone screwed it up! systemic injustice the real problem of the world. get rid of the "-isms" we can have heaven on earth! Heaven not important, now is paramount.
God seen as: coach, motivational energy to fight the fight.
Jesus is: social prophet, political agitator
Church is: a task force, change agent, a prophetic community
Preachers are like Martin Luther King JR, political activists
Pop Culture Reference: Rage Against the Machine

World Three: Adventurer-- primal fear: boredom! positive note sounds more loudly here in this world. it's largely optimistic and problematic spots of humanity are accidental. Harmonious world where you take care of yourself is taking care of others
God is: Energy, spirit, moving, motion, not stable!
Jesus is: not savior, more like a guide
Church is: education, spiritual recharging station
Preachers are exciting, challenging, and answer questions with more questions! the education aspect is really highlighted here.
Pop Culture Reference: The Simpsons (not linear plot, more wondering and covering lots of topics in one episode)

World Four: The Sinner--primal fear: moral and spiritual failure of humanity. Most thought of world when thinking of Christianity.
life is as test and trial. humanity is fallen/bad!
God is: the judge and will convict but not sentence
Jesus is: the sacrifice, enabler of forgiveness, SAVIOR
Church is: proclaiming community, worshiping
Preachers are role models for community.
Pop Culture reference: Jerry Falwell/Televangelists

World Five: Wounded Healer-- primal fear: shit happens, nothing you can do about it. you will die, life is tragedy. hope is that through other ppl an intimate bond will happen and God cares and empathizes with us.
God is: compassion and empathy
Jesus is: EMMANUEL! (God with us) and paramount as Jesus is the ultimate paradox. God knows through Jesus on the cross what it feels like to be abandoned by God.
Church is: intimate sharing, a big support group.
Preachers are pastoral councilors and role models of compassion
pop culture references: Mother Teresa, alcoholics anonymous, Fight Club

Here's the test for you to test yourself and see what worlds you score in. it's not digital and you have to sum up your scores all on your own, but it's worth it.

I scored high in worlds 3, 1, and 2. The thing about these worlds is that no one has the corner on the market. each one is just as valid as the others. so even though i didn't score high in world 5 or at all in the sinner world doesn't discount them. in fact our class was all over the board.

ministry is messy. what we're challenged as preachers to do is recognize these worlds and do our best to reach all worlds as best we can. what we need to strive for as ministers is to keep all these worlds in dialogue with each other as one can see the potential conflict that could come out of one holding onto their world and actively attacking the others.

So this whole process was definately a HONR! i really opened my eyes to what it means to be a minister as well as why there are so many churches with so many different ways of doing things. It explains alot about the world of religion but it also leaves open a HUGE question which would be "what way is right?" the answer is more questions! critical thinking! they are all valid and the world is a wide open place.

so how does my three interact? something like this:
something is wrong with the world, this is not my home--orphan
this wrong is partly systematically imposed and the -isms aren't helping--crusader
but these three dimentions are enjoyable despite these wrongs--adventurer
there are dimensions that get it right--orphan
we need to work to establish these dimensions here--crusader
by enjoying each other and the world at large--adventurer.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Does your job exist?

There will be two posts this week! one now and one on thursday!

there are many things that freak me out about becoming a minister. the first being the fear that ppl will think that i think that i'm holier than they are/thous arts. i assure you dear reader, kate, ma, megan, burrito, nick, and karen and all my other buddies will make sure that i stay humble. (just see the myspace photos and tagged facebook pix for proof).

i see my role not as a leader but as a guide. i just think i 'feel God' more than the average joe. that doesn't make me better.. a little more intuitive.. or crazy. but not better.

the second thing that freaks me out is the fact that ppl debate whether my future job exists. no one ever debated the existence of Armstrong tiles, Georgia Pacific paper-less drywall, and DeWalt tools. No one debates the existence of law, just its application. no one debates val's job as an admin. buying assistant at rod's western palace. but everyone debates the core of my job.

Is there a God?

for me, the answer is yes. if it's different from your answer, that's cool. if your answer is yes, it's Allah/Yaweh/Jesus that's cool too. whatever it takes to guide your life. i think everyone needs something to look towards when they come into conflict. what do you look towards when you get in a pickle and need help?

In a shout out to my Danish friend Rasmus, i've been reading the famous Danish philosopherSoren Kierkegaard. He explains that doubt is an essential element of faith, an underpinning. In plain words, to believe or have faith that God exists, without ever having doubted God's existence or goodness, would not be a faith worth having. For example, it takes no faith to believe that a pencil or a table exists, when one is looking at it and touching it. In the same way, to believe or have faith in God is to know that one has no perceptual or any other access to God, and yet still has faith in God

i really boils down to community. the world runs on the advice of friends and family. the role of religion as i see it now, is to give people a community in which to find solutions to their life-problems. this is what i see as the churchs role in service to humanity.

Rule of Three:
1-Book: Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin, this series is a must read for any fantasy fan!!

1.5-Skool book: Material Christianity and What to Expect in Seminary.
i really like the MC book as i always felt i didn't need 'things' (statues, rosaries, fish symbols on my bumper, etc) to remind me of Gods presence as i've felt it most of the time. Despite my feelings about it's not tough to be devout and kitschy at the same time, but it works for most people to help their personal relationship with God.

2-Music: The Dixie Chicks- taking the long way. i bought this for kate but i absolutely love it! this album proves that they're truly superstars, renegades, innovators, heroes, villians to stupid ppl and moms

3-Movie: Open Season. Genius! really funny! good buddy film about how your friends will get you in trouble but that will also help you grow up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Head off Neck Revelations

I'm living in a townhouse next door to other seminary students. There are roughly four other dudes that are in their 2nd and 3rd year. Talking to them is great cause it gives me a chance to see what's to come and develop a community that we're lacking here (hi jaycee's! k&b&d, and jason and lindsay!!).

The first conversation was about how challenging this seminary seems as compared to the one i checked in DC. My neighbors agree and one said "I thought i knew a lot about the Bible, but the first Old Testament class I had blew my head off my neck!"

He then told me about how there are two creation stories! A close reading of the first few chapters of the King James Bible reveals not one, but two different -- and contradictory -- stories of creation.

From Wiki:
There are two orders of events given which are contradictory. The earlier version appears in Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 and key items follow this order of creation:

marine animals, birds;
land animals;
humans (man and woman together) (Genesis 1:20 – 27).
The second account begins with Genesis 2:4 wherein key items of creation appear in this order:

man (not woman);
land animals and birds (marine animals are omitted but omission is not a contradiction and the order of birds and beasts is not stated as being on separate days unlike chapter 1);
and, when no "help meet for him" is found, woman (Genesis 2:7, 9, 18 – 22).[9]

Now I really can't see the point in Creationism! I look forward to more quirks like this! I live for this type of mind-bending,"head-off-neck revelations".

I hope to have many more HONRs as my Old Testament Class begins. (i'll pronounce those as "hon-ers").

p.s. I forgot to mention that i'll be posting every Tuesday! so check back every tuesday for new posts!

Monday, September 03, 2007

A Shift In Focus

This blog has been pretty unfocused. This is a product of it's author, because I'm a pretty unfocused individual. Or I'm more focused on the big picture and not on the brush strokes so I seem unfocused... ANYWAY! here's the deal:

I will now use this blog mainly to try to show what seminary is all about. Hopefully this blog will help shed some light on what most ministers go through (at least UCC ministers and those who attend that denom's seminaries), what is actually in the Bible, and personal changes and challenges I'm going through. I hope this will be of interest to you all.

Lots of posts to come! Stick around!