Ecclesial Tapestry

Good morning!

Last night at Bible study we were talking about the “household code” found in 1 Peter 2:13-3:7. I think the household codes in Scripture (Ephesians 5:22-6:9, Colossians 3:18-4:1) are really amazing and counter-cultural, and I enjoy teaching on them.

When I lead Bible studies I like to be able to go deep into the text, discuss things, difficulties, bring up questions, all that; but I don’t like to end there. I think people should go away from a Bible study challenged and encouraged, and so at the end of every Bible study I teach I throw on a little “homiletical takeaway–” my attempt to draw the discussion to a close with an encouraging word from the text. So here’s what I said last night:

God wants unity in inequality. I don’t mean inequality of worth; I mean distinction, difference. God doesn’t want a homogenous church, but an integrated one. He doesn’t love his own equally, as though they were all the same; he loves his own fully, as fully as he can love them. God is a Father– what father loves his own without distinction? There are different places, different levels of maturity, different gifts, different sexes, different roles. But one baptism, one church, one Lord, one Spirit, one God and Father of all.
Satan wants to iron out the difference between sexes, giftings, and institutions. God wants a beautiful stained-glass window; Satan want’s a nice uniform mud, which is just another way of talking about entropy, which is just another way of talking about death.
Unity in inequality. Each member fully accepted, fully loved, fully appreciated, for all their differences, their strengths and weaknesses– many members, one body, one Lord.


Rhetorical RPG


I know all my posts lately have been about exegesis; that’s just what happens when I’m in the midst of writing a paper on the subject. Out of the overflow of the study, the student blogs, I guess (By the way, that’s an example of metalepsis).

I found this gem from R.B Hays’ book Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, and in my opinion it blows Longenecker out of the water.

If we learned from Paul how to read Scripture, we would learn to appreciate the metaphorical relation between the text and our own reading of it. Thus, we would begin to cherish the poetics of imagination, allowing rhetoric to lie down peacefully with grammar and logic. In our own proclamation of the word, we would grant a broad space for the play of echo and allusion, for figurative intertextual conjunctions, and even–if our communities were sufficiently rooted in Scripture’s symbolic soil–for metalepsis. The troping of the text would be the natural consequence of locating our lives within its story.

By the way, a metalepsis is a figure of speech used in a new context. See my example above.


Against the Arians, Against the Paedobaptists?

I sure hope that title doesn’t get me into trouble.

I’m reading Peter Leithart’s book Athanasius right now, and I just came across a blurb from Athanasius which struck me. He is defending the Nicene definition against the Arians (who deny that Christ is coeval with the Father), and he uses the traditional baptistic formula to do so. I pick up in the middle:

For not he who simply says, “O Lord,” gives Baptism; but he who with the Name has also the right faith. On this account therefore our Savior also did not simply command to baptize, he first says, “Teach;” then this: “Baptize into the Name of the Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost;” that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come into the consecration of Baptism. (Leithart, Athanasius, p. 35)

Interesting. So here’s my question: If Athanasius is correct in saying that the command to ‘teach’ (or make disciples) comes before ‘baptize,’ then isn’t that an argument against paedobaptism? I’d love to hear what you Reformed and Presbyterian folks think.


Chop-Chop for Lord Mountjoy

Earlier today I listed some of my favorite Terry Pratchett Discworld novels. While writing that, this passage from Guards! Guards! came to my mind. I have to laugh out loud every time I read this, and I hope you will to.

The set-up: Captain Sam Vimes of the City Watch goes to consult Ankh-Morpork’s leading expert on dragons, given the sudden appearance of a dragon in the city streets the night previous.

He reached a heavy wooden gate in a heavy wooden wall. In contrast with the general decrepitude of the rest of the place, it seemed comparatively new and very solid.
He knocked. This caused another fusillade of strange whistling noises.
The door opened. Something dreadful loomed over him.
“Ah, good man. Do you know anything about mating?” it boomed.

Vimes found himself grabbed by the arm and pulled inside. The heavy door shut behind him with a definite click.
“It’s Lord Mountjoy Gayscale Talonthrust III of Ankh,” said the apparition, which was dressed in huge and fearsomely-padded armor. “You know, I really don’t think he can cut the mustard.”
“He can’t?” said Vimes, backing away.
“It really needs two of you.”
“It does, doesn’t it,” whispered Vimes, his shoulder blades trying to carve their way out through the fence.
“Could you oblige?” boomed the thing.
“Oh, don’t be squeamish, man. You just have to help him up into the air. It’s me who has the tricky part. I know it’s cruel, but if he can’t manage it tonight then he’s for the choppy-chop. Survival of the fittest and all that, don’t you know.”
Captain Vimes managed to get a grip on himself. He was clearly in the presence of some sex-crazed would-be murderess, insofar as any gender could be determined under the strange lumpy garments. If it wasn’t female, then references to “it’s me who has the tricky part” gave rise to mental images that would haunt him for some time to come. He knew the rich did things differently, but this was going too far.
“Madam,” he said coldly, “I am an officer of the Watch and I must warn you that the course of action you are suggesting breaks the laws of the city—” and also of several of the more strait-laced gods, he added silently—“and I must advise you that his Lordship should be released unharmed immediately—”
The figure stared at him in astonishment.
“Why?” it said. “It’s my bloody dragon.”


You Deserve Better, George.


I’m still reading Mark Twain’s Life On the Mississippi on DailyLit (I have mentioned both book and site before). I read chapter 38 last night, and it takes the first place prize for the most sardonic thing I think I have ever read. In chapter 38, Twain describes the average “mansion” one might find on the banks of the Mississippi, and what one might find inside. I like this part in the middle of his description:

…Current number of the chaste and innocuous Godey’s ‘Lady’s Book,’ with painted fashion-plate of wax-figure women with mouths all alike–lips and eyelids the same size–each five-foot woman with a two-inch wedge sticking from under her dress and letting-on to be half of her foot. Polished air-tight stove (new and deadly invention), with pipe passing through a board which closes up the discarded good old fireplace. On each end of the wooden mantel, over the fireplace, a large basket of peaches and other fruits, natural size, all done in plaster, rudely, or in wax, and painted to resemble the originals–which they don’t. Over middle of mantel, engraving–Washington Crossing the Delaware; on the wall by the door, copy of it done in thunder-and-lightning crewels by one of the young ladies–work of art which would have made Washington hesitate about crossing, if he could have foreseen what advantage was going to be taken of it.



Worth the Price of the Book

This morning Pastor Kerry mentioned a passage from a book he and I read together, and I remembered that I had wanted to put that same passage up here.

This is from James McClendon’s systematic volume one, Ethics– I’ve mentioned it before. McClendon in this section is talking about forgiveness, and Kerry says that this paragraph alone is worth the price of the book. I agree. So here it is:

This brings up the recurrent belief that forgiving means forgetting. And indeed, Scripture says that God tells Israel he “will remember your sins no more” (Isa. 43:25 NEB). Yet this cannot be understood with literal simplicity, for in the following verse (26) the forgiving God recounts those very forgiven sins Israel has committed. In this passage, then, to forget must mean to cease to harbor resentment, must mean to hold their sins against them no longer. Indeed, it might be more truly said of forgiveness that it is a special kind of remembrance. One who forgives knows the other’s offense to be offense; forgiveness takes its rise, begins, as Butler has shown, from natural resentment, else there is nothing to forgive. Then the forgiving one takes that offense up into his or her own life, makes the other’s story part of his or her own story, and by owning it destroys its power to divide forgiver and forgiven. In this sense, to forgive is truly to love one’s offending neighbor as oneself. Forgiving is not forgetting, for we can repress the memory and still be at enmity with one another; for Christians, forgiving is rather remembering under the aspect of membership in the body of Christ: it is knowing that he who is our body and we, forgiven and forgiver, are all one. (McClendon, 225)

There is one line in the middle that deserves repeating: “Then the forgiving one takes that offense up into his or her own life, makes the other’s story part of his or her own story, and by owning it destroys its power to divide forgiver and forgiven.” This is exactly what Jesus did, and taught us to do, and enables us to do. I think that line alone is worth the price of the book.


All The World’s A Stage

One hundred years ago today my grandfather was born. Though I never met him, I’ve always admired him from the stories I’ve been told and from his writing. Here’s the only prose reflection I’ve been able to find by him, a meditation of Shakespeare and Christ. I feel as though this gives some insight into how he became the man he was.

All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players………

These words, written so many years ago by that famous author and scholar, “William Shakespeare” have made an impression and never ceases to be a source of wonder to my mind.

Though written so long ago they have stood the test of time and the great thinkers of today still use portions of the writings of this man of long ago.

The continuance of the above, “they have their exits and entrances” furnishes food for thought, and were a man to enter into the spirit of the passage; would be a beautiful philosophy.

Looking at life from this point of view has made me over many a rough spot and many a trial or burden is made more endurable by substituting this passage of the play for the real experience.

After all, is it not a world of make believe? Do not humans, as a general rule love to labor under the delusion of “theory” rather than the settled and established fact?

Men are continually looking for a new religion, and many are the sects that base the greater part of their beliefs upon theory.

Just glance at our news stands, the modern trend seems to be towards such magazines as “astounding stories,” “wonder stories,” stories and theories such as “Buck Rogers” and “Flash Gordon.” There was a time when these stories were considered in the fairy tale class, but now are devoured by grown men and women with great gusto.

Taking all of this into consideration, perhaps you will find some excuse for a man taking his philosophy of life from the writings of a man who lived and died so many years before we were born.

Sometimes we are “cast” and are forced to play in a role that is extremely distasteful to us. Sometimes the other characters do not act and speak in a manner of which we can approve, but the great actor gives no sign of this, nor does he allow it to affect his act in any way.

We must always bear in mind that though the personality or the role of the other actors does not meet with our approval, yet the cast is formed and to attempt to change it would probably end in disappointment and failure. We cannot all be heroes and a play to be a success must appeal to all human emotions, love, grief, happiness, all work together to the one end of making the act a success.

Were it not for the rough spots we would not be able to appreciate the smooth places, were it not for the grief, could we recognize happiness at it’s time worth?

Yes, it takes all sorts of characters to make a play, and each one has his own parts and whether they be small or great they should be acted with all the good judgment, tact, and skill of the actor or they will have an evil effect, not only upon the other actor with which he comes in contact, but upon himself as well.

In the eyes of our great audience, our personal feelings must not affect our part, the play must go on and if we should fall by the wayside or be forced to make our exit before the appointed time, another will take our place, and on moves the act and we are soon forgotten.

Some writers have said that the entrance upon the scene does not make as much impression as does the manner in which the actor makes his exit; and they give that greatest of all characters and teachers, “Jesus,” as an example. His entrance was certainly nothing very elaborate but his exit has made an impression and has brought about a condition that will last though all the ages of eternity.

And this rule is true in all cases, no matter how small the part we have we must play it at our best, and when the end comes we must make our exit in a manner that will be a credit to our instructor.

Thomas Wainman Carpenter