Friday, August 17, 2012

J. S. Bangs on errant predictions, my thoughts on burnt offerings

One of the things that stands out about many predictions from some thirty years ago was how certain "everyone" was that nuclear war was likely.  This assumption that the Ronald Reagan who smiled and waved too much was going to obliterate all life from the planet was so pervasive that if you read, say, Alan Moore's Watchmen, you have to assume this dystopian prediction that inside of the Reagan years the planet was damned.  If you don't then you are not exegeting Alan Moore quite accurately.  Grant Morrison may be crazy but Morrison touched on this necessary interpretive approach in Supergods. The fact that you're reading the story at all by way of Rorschach's journal tells you in advance that the journal goes public and that Veidt's decades of scheming were basically for nothing.  Morrison was also right to point out that the core reveal is a problematic one, that the world's smartest man did the world's dumbest thing after spending his whole life thinking about it.

But, in a way, that's no surprise at all.  The smarter we think we are the more apt we are to be confined into some weird tunnel vision that admits no outside possibilities.  The best and brightest of the late 1980s were not imagining a world in which there would be no Soviet Union.  They were imagining, as J. S. Bangs notes with some amusement, 8 billion people on the planet.

I have heard it said that we have advanced a great deal in the last few centuries.  In some ways we have and that beyond our capacity to describe.  But in other ways I doubt that we are so advanced as we think.  The more we learn about the brain the more apparent it is that you can be the world's foremost expert on heuristics, cognitive biases, and things like that without managing to overcome a single one of those brain weaknesses today.  Just ask Daniel Kahneman, the author of Thinking Fast and Slow. We can say that we're more advanced than those benighted medievals who thought the world was flat and all that.  Well, sure, in several respects.

But ... and here is where my dour view of the human condition may skew my thoughts beyond practical value ... I wonder.  In the Israelite prophets I see warnings that if human sin piles up too high, if injustice and impurity become too great, and if there is no check on human pursuit of luxury then the land itself vomits up the evil society as a way to punish them for their iniquities.  We're too sophisticated for that and so Hollywood doesn't really make movies like The Day After Tomorrow, does it?  Attempting to combat global warming and sharing worries about modern First World dependence on fossil fuels isn't anything like Israelite prophets warning against making sacrifices to Ba'al or a complaint about a failure to observe the Jubilee year, is it?

Or is it?  What if, despite our protestations to the contrary, some of the pressing issues of our day, issues that the most progressive and secular tell us we must address yesterday, still ends up seeming curiously like a prophetic warning that our society is doomed for selfishly pursuing convenience and luxury by offering burnt sacrifices to the wrong gods, the worst ideals?  In the ancient Israelite prophetic idiom apocalyptic literature emerged to explain the disastrous consequences of short-term thinking over long-term values ... it would appear that the apocalyptic idiom, once developed, never stood the slightest chance of going out of style.

Call me a pessimist but it sure seems as though even the most progressive and secular can still think in terms of an entire civilization meriting damnation for offering the wrong sorts of burnt offerings to the wrong sorts of icons of prosperity.

Drew G. I. Hart: Tweener Jesus Visits the Temple

... it is understandable that Jesus’ parents lost track of him, given that they were most likely travelling in a large caravan full of family and friends from Nazareth to Jerusalem and back, which would probably offer a certain amount of safety and security in such a pilgrimage. If Jesus was hanging out with his cousins (possibly playing tag) then his parents could have easily lost track of him. However, it is interesting that the text says that “they assumed” Jesus was in their group. I’m not always an allegorical interpreter (not that I have anything against such readings), but a more recent reading lead me to jump immediately to how we as so proclaimed Christians in America so often venture off with our plans, mission, goals, and conquests, all while assuming that Jesus is with us.

Now it would take loyal and and long-time readers to know that I've linked to a few of Drew G. I. Hart's blog posts and commentary in the past.  By loyal and long-time readers I mean anyone who's been reading this blog since, I dunno, before Slate linked to me in 2012 without bothering to read anything I actually wrote.

But enough of my occasional annoyance with Slate on certain topics.  Hart has a nice little blog entry I've quoted partly to inspire you, perhaps, to go read the whole thing.

It's not even close to as cool as Linkathon at Phoenix Preacher but I can do what I can.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

... and more writing

As I have occasionally written here at Wenatchee The Hatchet certain essays don't write themselves.  I'm in the home stretch for the lengthy series about the caped crusader.  I'm excited by the prospect of having it all wrapped up, I hope, by the 20th anniversary of a certain classic cartoon.

Earlier this year I completed that giant cycle of 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar.  It took about five years to get the solo cycle done.  That means it took me about as long to finish my set as it took Igor Rekhin to finish his set.  Koshkin's set, I hear, was wrapped up in three years but his credentials as a guitar virtuoso over the last thirty to forty some years are beyond dispute.  I'm anything but a virtuoso and so I don't feel bad if it takes five years.

I am thinking of tackling a Chamber Music Week 3 some time later this year but that's just an idea where I'm brainstorming possibilities.  I want to get back into blogging about specific scores by composers.

Beyond this I have many other things I hope to tackle.  One can't always be writing music and essays all the time.  There are times to play music, too.  I want to start back into actually performing the things I compose.  I'm discovering, as many composers before me, that there are times when you have to be an advocate for your own work because not everyone is sure that what you wrote isn't too rough to play.  When the piece in question is a prelude and fugue for solo guitar in a key like B flat minor or F minor this point is well taken.

I'm not that far into the Romans commentary.  For sake of the Brooks I want to at least write an entry or two to let him know I am still reading the book.

There's something I may dabble with a bit that I'm on the fence about.  I may write a separate post about this or just sit on the thing for a bit and not blog about it.

After all, when I've said that I'm doing a lot of writing not all of it, by half, has necessarily been intended for this particular blog.

and another HT to Jim West along the earlier topic

HT: Jim West, Lectures on Adolf Schlatter

Lectures given by Dr. Robert W. Yarbrough at Covenant Theological Seminary in 1995.

You can download them for free and give them a whirl, which I (obviously) plan to do.  I'm still slowly plodding my way through Schlatter's amazing commentary on Romans The Righteousness of God. Translated, obviously.  I wish I was fluent in German but my understanding is that Schlatter could be challenging even for native German speakers.

Knowing German would have made studying Haydn and Hindemith a little easier.  Haydn's easy to study here in the U.S. but Hindemith ... sometimes you can't find any cool analysis of his work done by English-speaking scholars but I'm not going to belabor that point too much.

Adolf Schlatter's birthday

Jim West marks the occasion.  I only spotted this just now so I'm posting this so that, at least at PST, I haven't let it slip my mind before the day was done.

this is just to say ...

I miss Phoenix Preacher.  I don't know if it's down for the count or on a temporary hiatus.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nick Bogardus considers the decline of the nuclear family

Perhaps the most loving, most prophetic thing the church can do is to call men in their 20s to love Jesus, read their Bibles, get a job, to leave their parent’s house, and to love one woman—according to the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and the New York Times, no one is doing that.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.  Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”  Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Bogardus seems to have overlooked a prophetic message from some dude named Isaiah about eunuchs in the people of God.  Not everyone can or will get to that "love one woman" thing.  Where are those jobs for the 20-somethings?  The "real" jobs?  Bogardus is just repeating worn out axioms from Driscoll, I'm afraid.  The decline of the nuclear family may not presage a decline of the family at all. We may be in a tumultuous transitional period in which extended families begin to make a comeback.  Ironically Mars hill, in the first ten years, was a huge advocate for "living in community" and "life together". Or at least they were while Driscoll felt obliged to rent out as many spare rooms in his real estate as possible.  Now that he and his wife aren't renting to single guys maybe things have changed.

The nuclear family won't go away but perhaps the most prophetic and loving thing the church in America can do is to recognize that sexual fidelity is wonderful but the economic baggage we attach to courting/mating/dorting may have to be reassessed.  Most of the guys who have pastoral roles at MH who are in their 40s or late 30s by now were able to capitalize on a pre-bubble real estate situation.  These guys have obtained their variation of the American dream and they seem to really think that younger guys not pulling off the same hat track is a sign that they need a prophetic rebuke.  Maybe some of them do but I think the decline of the nuclear family may be nothing more than a transition in American culture into extended families becoming more common, if not in the upper classes then potentially in lower classes. This may look like a breakdown of the "traditional" family but the nuclear family is not nearly as traditional as evangelicals in America may think it is.  

That thing about the "one woman man" stuff ... further reading of Reformers beyond a few Neo-Calvinist favorites might be in order. I'll let biblioblogger Jim West field this because I can't possibly improve on what he wrote.

Scott Thomas: "We face a problem in the church. We're often too busy fighting with each other ... "

We face a problem in the church. We’re often too busy fighting with each other and we’re failing to fight for each other. We need to learn to fight for each other with every weapon in our arsenal.
Read more here: Pick the Right Fight: For Each Other, Not Against Each Other |

Okay ...  I agree with the axiom in general but ...