June 2008


Yesterday was gorgeous in Portland. My wife and I were out at a park, sitting on a blanket, reading. What a wonderful day. I was reading A.G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life, focusing on how I could apply my mind in the most focused way to reach the greatest outcome. In short, I was very engaged, when, all of a sudden, I find myself on my back, with a sore chest, smelling slightly of wet dog, and very confused. Apparently someone had made a rogue frisbee throw for a dog, who, keeping his eye trained on the frisbee, didn’t see me sitting there and creamed me. Luckily the dog wasn’t too big so my major injury was limited to being ‘that guy who got flattened by a dog.’ Fun times.

Life often offers us little nuggets where we least expect them. I am taking an independent study on Research and Writing methods for my ThM. Having already completed a Master’s thesis and having taken a similar class in my MA, I thought this class would be repetition and a waste of time. But required is required. However, this class has introduced me to this gem of a book: A.G. Sertillanges’ The Intellectual Life. This is truly a great resource of advice and encouragement for anyone looking to travel down the road of even semi-serious study. There have been so many quotable and impactful portions of this book that I wanted to start blogging on some of them occasionally. The first one that inspired me was this:

One does not need extraordinary gifts to carry some work through; average superiority suffices; the rest depends on energy and wise application of energy. (8 )

Now I do not consider myself to possess any extraordinary gifts, and though I may not word it as ‘average superiority’ I do consider myself in the averagely intelligent crowd. This is both an encouragement and a challenge. It is an encouragement because we do not all have to be of the ilk of Thomas Aquinas to produce quality intellectual work. But this is also a challenge because it depends on our energy and wise application of energy. In other words, it is ours to win or lose. The choice is up to us, how much energy, and more importantly ‘wise energy,’ are we willing to put into our endeavors? 

ANE Thought John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 334 pp. + Appendix.

This book was my introduction to Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) thought. As such, I do not have a great depth of knowledge of this subject, but I do have the unique opportunity to review this book as the audience it was intended for. As an introduction to the conceptual world of the Old Testament, I am the target audience.

As an introduction, this book functioned very well. There is a great amount of information in this book but not in such a way that a lay reader cannot keep up. The main thrust of this book is to paint a picture of the worldview of the ANE. It is not primarily about the Old Testament, though the author, through a series of ‘call outs,’ does interact with the similarities and differences between the worldview of the ANE and the worldview of ancient Israel. Furthermore, as an introduction to worldview, this book is not a history of the ANE. It is arranged topically, rather than chronologically or geographically, though within topics the author does differentiate between different areas.

Walton divides this book into 5 parts: 1) and introduction to Comparative Studies, 2) Literature of the ANE, 3) Religion, 4) Cosmos, and 5) People.

The first part introduces the discipline of comparative studies and what we could seek to gain from it. The main reason for doing comparative studies is (more…)

 Harold and the Purple CrayonCrockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon (n.p.: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1955).

John Hobbins graciously included me in a group of bloggers he invited to be part of a blogathon on Children’s books (announcement here). Some posts of the posts so far include the magical Land of Xanth, His Dark Materials, and Judy Bloom’s books. The book I have chosen is aimed at a younger audience but upon reading it again for this post it is no less special to me. 

When I was first proposed with the idea of a post on children’s books I started with trying to think of children’s books that I could even remember. This one stood out. I don’t think there has been a more imaginative presentation of the color purple.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is the first in a series of books about a little boy’s imaginative adventures with his purple crayon. I think of him as Tommy from Rugrats before there was a Tommy from Rugrats. He is a resourceful, logical, and quick thinking little boy who gets himself out of any trouble with the help of his purple crayon. It is a great little adventure story for children as well as throwing in little witticisms and puns that keep the adults chuckling (e.g., Harold ‘draws’ up his covers at the end of the book). 

The thing that stuck with me about this book as a child is that the world is what you make of it (also a great line by Linda Hunt in ‘Silverado’). I am a person who thinks in stories and images (probably why narrative theology and literary criticism is most interesting to me). As a child I would often entertain myself on road-trips by examining the landscape around me and imagining what kind of fantastical scene or story could take place on that landscape. I still do this to this day. Furthermore this book was a stimulus to pursue all sorts of serious imagination from a very early age. If Harold was capable of such adventures with only his purple crayon, then what kind of imaginings was I capable of in my own head (which has at least a 256 color palette). I think a good imagination is a necessary for life in general but especially for the intellectual life which I am currently pursuing.

As an adult I take many more messages from this book. Harold is a very logical character. He needed a moon for his walk in the moonlight, so he drew a moon. I want to pursue biblical studies so I am learning the biblical languages, German, etc. Another great analogy I draw from Harold is his anchor in the story. In the story Harold goes for an adventure but can’t find his window when he wants to get back home. Throughout the story, the moon is with him. It is only when Harold realizes that the moon is always in the middle of his window at night that he correctly orients his world and finds his room. As a Christian, Christ and his Word are my moon, that I try to correctly orient my world around in order to be where I am supposed to be.

Maybe I am reading too much into this little children’s tale but it has that kind of simplicity that allows for such musings and analogies. I recommend this book to children and adults alike. It is fun, it is imaginative and it is worth a few minutes of time. If for nothing else than to join a small boy and imagine the world in purple. Thanks John for the impetus of this post and I look forward to further installments in this series.

 

I am currently reading through Ronald J. Williams and John C. Beckman’s Williams Hebrew Syntax (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007) for my Hebrew Syntax class this summer. I hope to interact with this work more at a later time but reading through it I came across this category: ‘Construct chain with a genitive prepositional phrase” (§30c). The example for this category is ‏משׁכימי בבקר (‘early morning risers’). The reason that it caught my attention is that it categorized the word בבקר as a prepositional phrase. True the word בבקר is a combination of the preposition ב (‘in’) plus the noun בקר (‘morning’) making the prepositional phrase ‘in the morning,’ but in Hebrew it is expressed in one word. My question is this: do we analyze this phrase based on its English equivalent, which is a prepositional phrase, or its actual Hebrew construction, which is a single word? 

LamininThe image to the left is a diagram of the protein molecule Laminin. Laminin ‘is a protein found in the “extracellular matrix”, the sheets of protein that form the substrate of all internal organs also called the “basement membrane”. ‘ Basically, Laminin is the protein molecule that holds our bodies together. Now, you are probably notice, as many do, that this protein molecule happens to be in the shape of a cross.

The question that I ask is whether this is a great illustration of the truth of Col. 1:17 or simply a great illustration of it. Because of the recent talk by Louie Giglio, some in the evangelical community have begun to see Laminin as the ‘proof’ that God cares about us enough to hold our very cells together. There is no need to cite sources just google ‘Laminin’ and ‘Col. 1:17.’ The examples are plentiful. But let us take a look at Col. 1:17 and see what use we can make out of the Laminin example.

Col. 1:17 Reads: (more…)

You know the phrase “they’re rubbing off on me”? It usually describes someone who is having a personal influence on you so that it can be said that some of their character traits or mannerisms or whatever are ‘rubbing off on you.’  I just had that experience today.

I spent most of today meeting with a group of people that I can only describe as Prayer Giants. Now I am a cynic by nature, an academic by training and someone who is very suspicious of all things ‘christianese’ (i.e., overly ‘Christian’ lingo). However, after spending the better part of the day with people (most of whom are a generation above me) who naturally drip what I would call ‘christianese’ I found myself softened. Part way through the day I realized that these people actually meant everything they said. They are the type of people who say “Isn’t Jesus amazing!” and actually mean it.

I found myself not being judgmental of language and phrases that I normally would call hypocritical or ‘overly spiritual’ but blessed by it. What an amazing time. As I walked away from meeting with these people I couldn’t help but think that not a little bit of Jesus had rubbed off on me because of my time spent with them. I pray that I rub a little bit of Jesus off on the people I encounter in my life.