Ukraine #1

In the past, I have made passing references to Ukraine, and those references have made clear my distaste for Putin’s brand of Russian adventurism, along with my sympathies for Ukraine, stuck as they are with us on their side, us being such a hapless chump of a superpower. For example, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had a bunch of nukes. We talked them into surrendering those nukes in exchange for us guaranteeing their borders. They were stupid enough to believe us, so it is partly their fault I guess.

But this promises to descend into the particulars too quickly. I do want to get there in subsequent installments, but first I want to make some distinctions between two different kinds of political issues. There are the “do triangles have three sides?” issues, and there are the “did Smith shoot Murphy on the night of the 13th?” issues. Whether minimum wage laws are a good idea is the former kind of issue, and who should own the Crimea is the latter kind.

Unfortunately, the latter kind of issue is the kind that winds up in shooting wars, when the issues are often far more murky than people like to pretend, while the former kind of issue is the kind where people are prone to adopt a live and let live approach. You know, some Christian traditions believe that it would be more generous and more in keeping with the social justice spirit of Christ if we let triangles have four sides, or perhaps even five.

Authorisms

Authorisms (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014)

All books are full of words, but I really enjoy books that are full of words about words. Paul Dickson has written other books I have enjoyed as well — this one is a review of the different words that different authors coined and managed to get into circulation. I really enjoyed finding out how recent some of them are.

For example, Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the word “unconscious.” Milton coined “the light fantastic” to describe dancing. The first sighting of “T-shirt” is found in F. Scott Fitzgerald. The word “scientist” was coined by the Rev. William Whewell in 1840.

Good stuff.

Eclectic Guitar 2015

Logos Dads Band | 2015 Concert Promo from David Johnson Productions on Vimeo.

The Logos Dads’ Band is an eclectic collection of musicians associated with Logos School, and some of us even play eclectic guitar. We periodically hold a fund-raiser concert to help raise funds for the music program at Logos School. For some it is just an opportunity to listen to music and donate to a great cause. For others it is more of a cautionary tale — kids, you need to pay attention in your music classes so that you don’t turn out like that. At any rate, we have a wonderful time playing covers from the classic rock era, and our next concert is being held the Thursday night right before the opening of the Grace Agenda. We hope to see you there.

Book of the Month/March 2015

As it happens, three years ago this month I began posting a monthly book review of books that I wanted to promote, and the book I selected to kick off this feature was The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips. As it happens, on the three-year anniversary of this salutary custom, the book I have selected is another book by Dan Phillips, this time his book on Proverbs called God’s Wisdom in Proverbs. I want to beat the drum for this book for three reasons.God's Wisdom

The first is that this generation of Christians needs the sanctified horse sense of Proverbs in the worst way. The grace of God is present in the miracles of Scripture, sure enough, but the grace of God is also present in the way the world usually runs. And nothing is better at describing how the world usually runs than the book of Proverbs. A little sleep, a little slumber, and you don’t usually win the lottery. It is not legalism when things fall down as you drop them. It is not binding the conscience to observe that wringing the nose bringeth forth blood. Describing the grace of God does not run contrary to the grace of God, and the book of Proverbs describes the ways and means of grace in a way that our cheap grace generation needs to hear. Whatever we can do to convince the general Christian populace that Proverbs actually is the Word of God would be a great blessing.

The second reason is that Phillips has done something that is very rarely done. He combines acute scholarship and interaction with the original text alongside with a discussion of the message of Proverbs that is accessible to the average layman. In other words, many writers try to make things accessible by writing in a pop style, and others try to make things seem learned by writing in a style best described as High Turgid. Archbishop Usher said it best when he said, “Ah, my brethren, how much learning it takes to make things plain.” This book accomplishes that high achievement in spades. An average Christian would be greatly benefited by reading this book, and a pastor preaching sermons on Proverbs to a congregation full of endoctorated brains with feet would be greatly helped. This book has range.

And third, Phillips writes the kind of pungency that the book of Proverbs itself represents. In other words, Phillips is an adept student, and has successfully imitated the heart of what he is studying. Too many  commentaries on Proverbs are nothing at all like Proverbs.

“What note does this strike? Does this sound like a cultured lady politely requesting another napkin in a fine restaurant?” (p. 117).

“The first envisions the man of the world, talking big and walking proud” (p. 101).

“Proverbs by definition are short and pointed. They burst in the front door, bang a cup on the table, have their say, and then exit with a slam” (p. 27).

Phillips is an interested reader, and therefore is an interesting and arresting writer. This book is the good stuff.

Surveying the Text: Song of Songs

Introduction:

As we consider the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs, there is much of spiritual value that we can gather from it, even though we might not grasp the overall narrative thread. This intensely emotional and very erotic love poem is very much like the way of a man with a maid—everybody knows what is going on, and nobody quite knows what is going on

The Text:

“There be three things which are too wonderful for me, Yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; The way of a serpent upon a rock; The way of a ship in the midst of the sea; And the way of a man with a maid” (Prov. 30:18–19).

Literary Options:

Interpretations of this book are legion, but there are three main options to choose from. The first is to take the book allegorically. This is what the ancient rabbis did, and is part of the reason the book managed to be included in the canon of Scripture—that, and Solomon’s authorship. The rabbis waxed eloquent about Yahweh’s love for Israel, and Christians, not to be outdone, were fully their match on Christ’s love for the Church. But this, obviously, can sometimes get out of hand—consider the rabbi who thought that the Shulamite’s belly, compared to a heap of wheat, represented the Great Sanhedrin. Or the Christian interpreter who thought her two breasts represented the Old and the New Testaments. In 550 A.D., one church council forbade any interpretation that was not allegorical. But sometimes the best hermeneutical move is to put your head between your legs and breathe into a paper bag.

The Politics of Sodomy 3: Has It Come to That?

NB: This is the outline for the first service at Christ Church

Introduction

Often we confront problems in our individual lives, or in our families, and after we have exhausted all the possibilities in our hunt for a solution, we ask others to pray for us. “Oh,” some might be tempted to think. “Has it come to that?” We must learn to begin where we are sometimes tempted to end.