Archives For August 2014

The Stamp Is Real

August 31, 2014 — 8 Comments

IMG_20140831_110903When my daughter brought this stamp to me earlier today, I couldn’t shake these four words.

The. Stamp. Is. Real.

Yesterday she was blessed with a collection of stamps from my step-father, who is himself an avid stamp collector. He seemed pretty keen to pass down some decent stamps to her from his own collection.

I’d never seen this stamp before and so I was curious about it.

Despite the obvious absence of the word ‘created’, the theological statement printed on it still speaks volumes. I also think that the absence of the word ‘created’ only intensifies the inference of meaning that the image projects.

It doesn’t point to some idea of a  ‘moral’ golden era; or an epoch of ignorance and anxiety about scientific contributions to how we understand the world around us. With the exemption of the unity (not necessarily a unity free of conflict) and freedom that Christianity has undergirded in the West for centuries, it’s debatable about whether any such eras existed anyway.

The statement on the stamp is simple.

Whether we consider creation to be word-instant or evolution-distant, it doesn’t dampen the significance of ‘In the beginning God…’ 

It may be too bold to suggest it, but there is a possible interchange, although not without some degree of caution, between Darwin’s  ‘Power of Selection’ and the ‘Power of the Holy Spirit’, which would potentially still allow room for Darwin’s original observations, whilst not endorsing natural theology {more my Pentecostal tendencies perhaps…? Either way, don’t shoot me on this, it’s a work in progress. I’ll let you know where I land}.

What the image does do is stamp onto us a point of reference outside ourselves; a point of being where we are raised beyond our ability to raise ourselves. Freely raised by God towards the goal (telos) of fellowship with Him.

When we say ‘the stamp is real’ we are saying in a round about way that something like righteousness or goodness cannot easily be dismissed as a social construct.

For this reason:goodness resides outside humanity and is only present in humanity because of God’s merciful “yes” and just “no” to us. The change in our being presupposes the power to change our being and it rests on a dynamic summons to genuine freedom. It is sealed on our hearts, in our minds and upon our souls by the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:30).

It’s not, but it might seem like a cheap pun to say that this stamp reminds us of God’s stamp-of-approval; his “Yes” in Christ as the ‘beginning’ of restoration for all creation. His words breathing life into dust – whispering purpose to us. His love grounding you and me in the person of Jesus Christ, worked out in our lives through the promise and power of the Holy Spirit (2. Peter.1:3-7).

For:

‘In Christ you were chosen before the foundation of the world.
In him you have redemption.
In him you have forgiveness.
In him you have wisdom and insight.
In him we are united.
In him we have obtained an inheritance.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance..’
(Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV)

The stamp is real folks.

August 22_2014 NASA Instagram

August 22_2014 NASA Instagram

Mere Haiku

August 29, 2014 — 4 Comments

ID-10039735If you’ve been following my blog for a while now, you would be aware of my fascination with haiku.

If not, you’re probably thinking to yourself “hmm…what exactly is haiku”?

Well, the basic definition is this: a haiku amounts to three short unconventional English sentences that don’t rhyme, or have a title, but make up an overall statement about something.

Originating in Japan, haikus traditionally followed a structure based on syllables of a 5-7-5 convention.

However, other than for haiku purists, today this convention is viewed as a guide. This is mainly due to the fact that syllables in the Japanese language do not exactly match those of the English language.

The British Society for Haiku notes:

‘English and Japanese ideas differ considerably about what constitutes a syllable (onion, for example, would count as 4 syllables in Japanese). To preserve the spirit, feeling and brevity of haiku, writers in English often find that a form shorter than 17 syllables is desirable (around about 12). No ‘rules’ are broken by doing this, for the great master of Japanese haiku, Basho, himself, advised poets to judge haiku by how they sounded even if this meant ignoring a strict syllable count. In English haiku the middle line of three (written horizontally) is usually a little longer than the other two, irrespective of how many syllables are used.’[i]

I should declare this right from the start, I am not a haiku expert. In all honesty I’d rate my fumbling around with it as amateurish at best.

Still, that means more practice and when it comes to haiku I’m more than happy to lay out some serious downtime mucking around with it. There’s something about the simplicity of haiku that permits a definitive break from the formal thought of academia.

There is a clarity here that I find refreshing, even if I don’t quite have the hang of it yet.

Here are four of my recent attempts:

 

Cold chaos
Insecurity complicates communication
More words; fewer sentences

 

Serious and sure
His five year old logic: “Lego is real”
I’m convinced

 

Writing on a tree
Words, images, dancing light kindling pleasant protests
Grace advice

 

Stardom shipwrecked
On a sea of likes, comments and shares, a ship jettisons its moral compass
Love is betrayed

 

Feel free to comment and/or add your own.

If you’re interested there is an activity sheet provided for by the British Haiku Society with information and examples for lessons. I am yet to use it with our homeschoolers, but it is on da to do list.

{Haiku lesson link}

 

Source:

[i] The British Haiku Society

Image: “Mount Fuji ” Courtesy of John Kasawa

Related posts:

aRt & tHeOlOgY: Haiku For Autumn

Unorthodox Haikus: On Social Media & Post-Atomic Skies

The culturally engrained, number one bad habit in the West is to measure most things or people by their inherent economic value.

Now, I’m all for compassionate commerce and moving forward financially, but it seems to me that measuring the worth of someone through their economic efficiency or portfolio only encourages the deterioration of the work force through the loss of respect for a person’s true worth.

My point is that depths of my pockets are not indicators of my value, success, spirituality or holiness.

They may reflect the brokenness I come out of, or good/bad decisions I may have made, but in the end they do not demonstrate who I am or illustrate what I am worth.

Money, property, friends and status can all be lost; whereas knowledge, good character, faith, wisdom and understanding cannot be, at least not unless it is first surrendered or compromised.

The more we teach our homeschoolers the more I see that we are passing them an inheritance like no other.(In fact, this applies to any parent engaged in the responsible education of their children)

We are equipping them with an investment that no man, woman or ideology cannot easily take from them.

There is something of a true freedom expressed in this journey, freedom that is handed down at a cost, but one with returns that will far outlive (and outweigh) the initial investment.

Here are some of our more recent reflections taken during our morning discussions about ‘scripture, life and the world around us’.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones’ (Proverbs 3:5-8, ESV)

Collage scripture_lifeCollage scripture_life 3

Collage scripture_life 2

collage scripture_life lessons

‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God us with humanity. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…’ (Rev.21:3-4, ESV)

{Images reprinted here with permission from the artists.}

George_John_Romanes_wikiThese past two weeks I have been entrenched in material about Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Working up along the path of historical receptivity, I then ventured into the lane ways that exhibit a ton of mixed responses, which today are still having an impact on the dialogue between science and faith.

One key thing that stands out is the fact that not all evolutionary theorists agree and like a lot of institutions experience factional groupings. Although this fracturing only seems to have become more evident after Darwin’s publication of the ‘Decent of Man’ in 1871 – this points to early Social Darwinism as the potential reason; which grew into a grotesque totalitarian scientism endorsed by one of Darwin’s most enthusiastic supporters, German, Ernst Haeckel (1834 – 1919).

19th Century scientific inquiry was spurred on by the higher criticisms (historical criticism) birthed in the 18th Century. It was open season and everything was fair game.

This seems to have pushed the line of suspicion against the Biblical texts, opening up a feeding frenzy on the Church and centuries of Christian faith, practice and thought. It’s no wonder then that Christians such as William Jennings Bryan pushed back.

However, by all the evidence available, these criticisms ended up only acting as a necessary purifier – a necessary shaking of the foundations that, as I understand it, still laid outside the extremes of neo-Protestantism (liberal theology – denial of miracles/resurrection et.al) and Neo-Darwinism.

The general view here is that the criticisms functioned as kind of back-to-basics qualifier which consequently only empowered Christianity by reviewing its role and claim in the world.

They were seen to be buttressing facts about Christian faith, practice and thought.  As a result Christianity, albeit somewhat weathered and shaken, could stand up well against future scientific criticisms and modern heresy. I wouldn’t venture as far to suggest that in this period of history Christianity went through a scientific-enlightenment baptism-of-fire, but it certainly carries that image well.

In large part scientific inquiry does seem to have buttressed Christian faith and thought. For instance: it opened up questions regarding the historical dating of the biblical text, only to confirm more than it might have otherwise refuted.

This is echoed in one of Darwin’s youngest colleagues, George John Romanes’ and his posthumous work: ‘Thoughts on Religion’, 1904.

‘Prior to the new [Biblical] science, there was really no rational basis in thoughtful minds, either for the date of any one of the New Testament books, or, consequently, for the historical truth of any one of the events narrated in them…
…but now this kind of scepticism has been rendered obsolete, and forever impossible; while the certainty of enough of St.Paul’s writings for the practical purpose of displaying the belief of the apostles has been established, as well as the certainty of the publication of the Synoptics within the first century’[i].

Out of interest here is Romanes, himself an evolutionary biologist, positing on the benefits:

‘It is a general, if not a universal, rule that those who reject Christianity with contempt are those who care not for religion of any kind. ‘Depart from us’ has always the sentiment of such.
On the other hand, those in whom the religious sentiment is intact, but who have rejected Christianity on intellectual grounds, still almost deify Christ. These facts are remarkable.
If we estimate the greatness of a man by the influence which he has exerted on mankind, there can be no question, even from the secular point of view, that Christ is much the greatest man who has ever lived.
It is on all sides worth considering that the revolution effected by Christianity in human life is immeasurable and unparalleled by any other movement in history; though most nearly approached by that of the Jewish religion, of which, however, it is a development, so that it may be regarded as a piece with it.
Christianity thus is immeasurably in advance of all other religions. It is no less so of every other system of thought that has ever been promulgated in regard to all that is moral and spiritual.
Whether it be true of false, it is certain that neither philosophy, science nor poetry has ever produced results in thought, conduct, or beauty in any degree to be compared with it.’[ii]

By all accounts, Romanes along with Vernon Kellogg, are not in line with Social Darwinian ethics, theology or any such blind application of science. Such as, seeking to apply a totalitarian scientism to the socio-political arena; deliberately seeking to disinherit Judeo-Christian theology from its place in science, as a necessary and serious critique in its own right.

Thoughts on Religion’ is only one of three primary documents, from this specific area, that I have found which exists as a critique of extremes. At the same time it presents a document that serves Romanes’ intention, which was to fund a project of objective analysis that seeks to extinguish the unnecessary “conflict” between science and faith.

George Romanes quote

Source:

[i] Romanes G.J, 1904 Thoughts on Religion Loc.1610

[ii] Ibid, Loc.1641 & 1650

‘Thoughts on Religion’ can be acquired for free from Project Guttenburg here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16942

Image: George John Romanes

Writing seven years after the date of the excerpt below, Vernon Kellogg in an article for ‘The Atlantic’, wrote a response to William Jennings Bryan’s stand against evolution. Something made famous by The Scopes Trial in 1925.

Kellogg’s 1924 essay was entitled ‘The Modern View of Evolution‘. In it Kellogg, a biologist, writes from a position that understands the importance of making a distinction between ‘Social Darwinism’ and ‘Darwinian Evolutionary Theory’. For an excellent summary of Bryan’s views after the Scopes Trial was closed, I recommend checking out ‘The Last Message of William Jennings Bryan’.

Bryan points to the same distinction in his concerns about evolutionary theory. However his overall argument becomes generalised, which overshadows his points. In my view, outside this, his closing statement is outstanding.

The excerpt below is from Kellogg’s assessment of the impact of scientism, something that pushed him beyond pacifism. As a result he became an advocate for the just resistance against such views. Scientism is defined as an ‘exaggerated trust in the efficacy of  science‘ (Merriam-Webster).

Although I am not yet in complete agreement with the narrator when he suggests that Darwin later succumbed to Social Darwinism/Scientific Socialism.The video attached is legit and worth watching.

The historical value here is found in its contemporary relevance as an indictment against scientism and totalitarianism.

Theology remains a necessary critique (Barth) and this seems to back that up.

To Whom It May Concern,
Vernon L Kellogg‘One by one any German would give up, in all matters in which he acted as a part of the German administration, all of the thinking, all of the feeling, all of the conscience which might be characteristic of him as an individual, a free man, a separate soul made sacred by the touch of the Creator.
And he did this to accept the control and standards of an impersonal, intangible, inhuman, great cold fabric made of logic and casuistry and utter, utter cruelty, called the State — or often, for purposes of deception, the Fatherland.
There is fatherland in Germany, but it is not the German State. It is German soil and German ancestry, but not the horrible, depersonalized, super-organic state machine, built and managed by a few ego-maniacs of incredible selfishness and of utter callousness to the sufferings, bodily and mental, of their own as well as any other people in their range of contact.
But this machine is a Frankenstein that will turn on its own creators and work their destruction, together with its own.
Such sacrifice and degradation of human personality as national control by such a machine requires, can have no permanence in a world moving certainly, even if hesitatingly and deviously, toward individualism and the recognition of personal values…
…Well, I say it dispassionately but with conviction: if I understand theirs, it is a point of view that will never allow any land or people controlled by it to exist peacefully by the side of a people governed by our point of view.
For their point of view does not permit of a live-and-let-live kind of carrying on. It is a point of view that justifies itself by a whole-hearted acceptance of the worst of Neo (social) Darwinism, the omnipotence of natural selection applied rigorously to human life and society and culture.
The creed of the All-macht (omnipotent power) of natural selection based on violent and fatal competitive struggle is the gospel of the German intellectuals; all else is illusion and anathema.
The assumption among them is that the Germans are the chosen race (the Ubermensch), and German social and political organisation the chosen type of human community life, and you have a wall of logic and conviction that you can break your head against but can never shatter – by headwork.You long for the muscles of Samson…
Here the pale ascetic intellectual and the burly, red-faced butcher meet on common ground here. And they wonder why the world comes together to resist this philosophy – and this butcher- to the death!
Any people who have dedicated itself to the philosophy and practice of war as a means of human advancement is put into a position of impotence to indulge its belief at will.
My conviction is that Germany is such a people, and that it can be put to this position only by the result of war itself. It knows no other argument and it will accept no other decision[i]. ’
Vernon Kellogg, 1917 
(Biologist and Director of The Commission for the relief of Belgium 1915-1916)

 

Sources:

[i] Kellogg, V.L. 1917 Headquarters Nights: A Record of Conversations and Experiences at the Headquarters of the German Army in France and Belgium (Annotated) (Loc. 459-460). Rueggisberg Press. 2010 Kindle Ed.

Image: Vernon Lyman Kellogg Wikipedia

#Lestweforget

Reading listIt can be difficult to know where to start with a reading list.

Once the prospect of achieving the goal drifts further, and further away the optimism that accompanied the original objective wanes.

Indecision steps in, as that which seemed like a good idea at the time slowly turns into something along the lines of:

“Oops…maybe I set the bar a little higher on this than I should have.”

In addition, there’s only so much one can read in the priceless minutes that frees us to tune out and read something of value each week.

Still, I am convinced reading lists serve a purpose. So, I am taking a step back and reprioritising what still sits on the shelf, or in my ebook libraries.

Right now I’m in between finishing off my final post on Barth’s C.D I/II and finishing the book ‘Theology after Darwin’, which is turning out to be worth the effort.

For why I was unable to get to read most on my list from January (excluding Barth’s Dogmatics), I’m putting it down to my eagerness to read Barth’s Dogmatics. Reading Barth is not something one can just breeze through – it’s just that darn good!

So here’s what I’ve achieved and would like to achieve in the next six months.

Achieved:

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking Susan Cain, 2012

Augustine and the Limits of Politics, Jean Bethke Elshtain, 1995

The Children of Men, P.D. James 1992

The kindergarden of Eden, Evan Sayet 2012

Church Dogmatics I/II, Karl Barth

The Origin of Species, 1859 Charles Darwin {not originally on the list }

The Rebel, 1951 Albert Camus {not originally on the list}

Current list (Reprioritized)

The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race – Willie James Jennings

Up from Slavery – Booker T Washington (Homeschool reader)

The Servile State – Hilaire Belloc

The Work of the Chaplain – Naomi K. Paget & Janet R. McCormack

Good Call: Reflections on Faith, Family and Fowl – Jase Robertson

Church Dogmatics II/I The Doctrine of God – Karl Barth, (priority text – goal is to read all of them eventually)

Karl Barth’s Table Talk – John.D Godsey

Preaching in Hilter’s Shadow, Dean G. Stroud

Legalizing Misandry, Paul Nathanson & Katherine Young 2006

Between past and present, Hannah Arendt 1954

 

I intend to add and read-as-I-go from the reading list posted in January.

The ones unread will be put in a holding pattern for now.

There are good grounds for doing this. One key reason though, is that I am now teaching homeschool three days a week.

nla_map-t1606-vI’ve just finished reading ‘The Origin of the Species’. It was surprising to find almost ZERO evidence of any cultural Christian influences, which seems to be a key theme found amongst some Darwinians who have suggested that this hindered his original work.

There are, however, strong patterns throughout the book which indicate a “disposition”, which suggests among other things, that Darwin was a political product of Imperialist expansionism; a son from the age in which and whence forth, he therefore thus “descended”…

On another, slightly satirical note, but still related to that of Darwin, we find something that might suggest how the “principle of selection” explains the friendly-sometimes-comedic rivalry between Australia and New Zealand.

In which case, Charles Darwin might have been way ahead of his time:

‘New Zealand and New Caledonia (France)[i] should be considered an accessory of Australia’

‘Although New Zealand is here spoken of as an Oceanic island, it is in some degree doubtful whether it should be so ranked; it is of large size, and is not separated from Australia by a profoundly deep-sea; from its geological character and the direction of its mountain-ranges, the Rev. W.B. Clarke has lately maintained that this island , as well as New Caledonia, should be considered as appurtenances of Australia’[ii]

All that said, I did enjoy reading it. I’ll post something deeper about it once I’ve have made time to process and properly order some of my notes.

Even though I am conscious of my bias and limitations with this, I don’t think it is reading history backwards to say that the language Darwin uses is highly political.

It does show that extremely careful Darwin was with his choice of words, but it doesn’t show he did it in order to be sensitive to an overly intolerant and ignorant Christian majority. Instead, the text seems to fall in line with the political narrative of his day.

Like an abstract artist, I could be coloring outside the lines here, but from my initial reading ‘The Origin of the Species’, as well as being an empirical list of theory and suggested evidence to match, reads like a scientific justification for the political policies of the historical context, for and from which it was written.

It is too early for me to settle on this insight conclusively. Although I can see how writers such as Lutheran Gene Veith and Tom Wright (among others) have concluded that Darwinist thought was one of the key progenitors[iii], or ‘great prophets of Modernism’[iv] and therefore a justification for some of the most violent and barbaric events carried out throughout the 20th Century.

In the course of deciding how best to follow-up the topic from a theological perspective, I’ve added the Paternoster 2009 publication: ‘Theology after Darwin, edited by Michael S. Northcott and R.J Berry to my reading list.

The book is a compilation of essays that no doubt will present itself as a challenge to read.

Sources:

[i] Australia’s Eastern neighbours include France (New Caledonia), New Zealand, Solomon Islands, and Fiji.

[ii] Darwin, C. 1859 The Origin of the Species, New American Library, 1958, p.380

[iii] Veith, G.E. 1993 Modern Fascism ‘Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection had implications far beyond biology…he saw violent conflict as the essence of nature; e.g.: as competition between races: ‘’survival of the fittest”’ Kindle Ed. (Loc.464)

[iv]  Wright, T. 1997 What Saint Paul Really Said, p.155

Image: National Library of Australia