Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Study of Everything Else

My New Blog!

golden bulletFriends and readers, I am starting a new blog called Select Arrow! In the near future, this will be my one and only blog, replacing Theology Geek and my other online projects. I will preserve some of my favorite posts and continue my exploration of Theology, Mental Health, and Art. Please check out SelectArrow.org. Thank you!

A Biblical Theology of Mathematics

biblicaltheologyofscience

wb_montage

The Bible does not answer all possible questions regarding the role and purpose and reasonable extent and use of mathematics. Mathematical ideas and concepts seem to have existed in the mind of God before mankind elucidated them, but this is more in a Biblical sense that David wrote, “Before a thought is on my lips, you know it completely, O Lord” (Psalm 139:4) rather than the Platonic sense that true mathematical ideas exist in the mind of God before man discovers them and that mathematical discovery is somehow probing the mind of God. To be sure, a created world that gives such evidence of mathematical thinking, combined with God’s assertions of the created order and use of mathematics in Scripture give evidence that the process of creation involved mathematical thinking on the part of the creator.

However, theoretical physics and mathematics are not the best process for knowing God’s thoughts…

View original post 801 more words

minimalism

minimalism

Is minimalism a fad, a trend, a movement, or a revolution? The answer is yes.

As a writer, I had primarily been acquainted with ‘literary minimalism,’ which is a particular writing style. However, through encountering blogs such as ‘Becoming Minimalist,’ books such as ‘The Joy of Less,’ and television shows such as ‘Tiny House Nation,’ I have arrived late to a party I didn’t know was going on right up the block – minimalism as a lifestyle ethos.

I have two competing aesthetic impulses. One is my attraction to monasticism and the other to perfectionism. I admire monks that withdraw from society and the distractions of the world, wholly devoted to deeper spiritual pursuits. I once spent five days in a monastery for a personal spiritual retreat. At the same time, I am an adherent to Sturgeon’s Law, which states that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” It would seem like those impulses are complimentary, but I feel an urge to hoard that remaining 10%. I desire to own ALL of the best books ever written, ALL of the greatest films, ALL of the (fill in the blank), etc. That drive for owning the best has the side-effect of materialism and consumerism – acquire enough golden needles from haystacks and you end up with a very large pile of needles.

So why the lifestyle reappraisal? My children are a big part of it. Having two kids under two and being the only breadwinner has shifted the financial margins of my life. Suddenly, I am ‘living within my means’ even less than usual. And as for my collections? Well, I barely have enough time during the day to crack open one exquisite Bible, let alone eighteen and counting. Owning more stuff has not directly correlated to a happier life. Indeed, I often feel anxiety about neglecting to make more use out of my belongings at a time in my life where I have very little free time.

Although minimalism may appear more in leftist, hipster, and survivalist circles, it is thoroughly compatible with Christianity. Jesus told this parable in Luke 12: “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared? So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

You can’t take your belongings with you, and it is far better to store up treasure in heaven. On this earth, Romans 13:8 encourages us to “owe nothing to anyone…” Many places in scripture talk about the importance of contentment, which is counter-cultural to the American Dream.

Minimalism isn’t just about de-cluttering, but simplifying. In focusing on the things that truly matter the quality of your life improves. I am finding all kinds of advice such as “have nothing on your counters” and “make a list of every single thing you own.” So, I am taking my first tentative steps in this new direction. Sometimes less allows you to be more. Hmmm… now which of my awesome coffee mugs do I give away?

THREE SURPRISING ACTIVITIES THAT MAKE ME FEEL CLOSER TO GOD

Creation of Adam

Intimacy with Christ is perhaps the single most worthwhile thing that a person can seek. And, as we are commanded to love God with all of our heart, soul and strength, there are different ways of drawing close as there are different degrees of proximity.

I generally subscribe to a ‘tripartite’ view of the composition of man – spirit, soul, and body. This would be analogous to the “heart, soul, and strength” referenced above. In Greek we find the words soma, psyche, and pneuma. The soma is the physical body, shared by all living things in our universe. The psyche is the soul or psychological self, comprised of cognitions, emotions, and memories. The pneuma is the spirit, the heart, or the inner-man – it is the spiritual core and the seat of the will.

In this post I will describe three surprising activities at the level of the soma that, for me, foster a subjective feeling of closeness and deeper appreciation of God.

1. RUNNING

I am not much of a runner. I can’t remember the last time the Nike running app on my smartphone was activated. Running had always seemed masochistic to me, and it wasn’t until my wife suggested a couch-to-5k plan as a potential shoulder-to-shoulder bonding activity that I reluctantly began to enjoy the activity.

Besides the eventual endorphin release, putting on my brightly colored running shoes and hitting the pavement brings to mind the many, many analogies found in scripture that compare the Christian life to running a race.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1)

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV)

I also can’t help but think of Olympic athlete Eric Liddell as depicted in the film ‘Chariots of Fire.’ “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

2. DRINKING WINE

I am also not much of a wine drinker. I have dabbled in and enjoyed the fine Pinot Noir that comes out of the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I have been to a few wine tastings. I have even read the book, ‘The Billionaire’s Vinegar.’ Still, nobody would confuse me for an oenophile. If I have any beverage of choice it is coffee, hands down. Also, lived in “Beer City, USA” for many years and was exposed to local, craft beers that would make Belgian monks proud. What’s more is that my current job precludes my consumption of any alcoholic beverages.

But still, drinking wine makes me feel closer to God.

Jesus was a fan of wine. Our Lord and Savior’s first recorded miracle involves transmuting water into wine (John 2). His opponents actually accused him of being a drunkard (Matthew 11:19). This was real wine, not “grape juice” as some have attempted to twist the biblical language to fit human traditions.

Growing up in a very “low church” setting, I did indeed drink store-bought grape juice in a tiny paper cup and eat a cracker for Communion (I can’t bring myself to refer to an ounce of grape juice and a cracker as the Lord’s Supper). I have even heard a former youth pastor joke about offering purple Gatorade and potato chips. Although I am not a proponent of “means of grace” sacramentalism, I have a strong sense that Evangelicalism’s Communion resembles very little the Last Supper that Jesus spent with his disciples in the upper room. In contrast, I have a sense of reverence whenever I visit a Lutheran service and dip my bread into a goblet of wine, feeling the slight alcoholic sting of the “blood of Christ” on my tongue.

What interests me most are the words of Matthew 26:29: “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my father’s kingdom.” There is an actual promise from Jesus to his disciples that he will drink wine with them during his coming kingdom. Drinking a glass of wine makes me remember this promise and look forward to spending time with my God.

3. BIRD WATCHING

What? Did you say bird watching?!? Fifteen years ago I would have ranked bird watching one step above stamp collecting as the most boring and unmanly hobbies of all time. So what changed? First, I saw the Academy Award-nominated documentary ‘Winged Migration.’ Second, I visited the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. Third, I began to notice interesting birds such as wild turkeys, owls, and even a massive turkey vulture near the places I lived in North Carolina. Those events helped me appreciate the diversity of ‘little feathery animals that fly around’ significantly more.

More recently, the Campus Pastor at my work has repeatedly commented on the deep impact his mother’s advice had on him as he grew up: “Look at the birds…” She would reference Jesus in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father” and Luke 12:24, “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!”

To combat worry and fear, this boy’s mother would recall the Word and enjoin him to spend time in nature contemplating God’s design and goodness. These memories were so meaningful to this Pastor that if he were to plant a new church he would affix the name Sparrow Ridge to it, out of every possible name one could choose. I too am learning the art of quieting myself and appreciating God’s creation, allowing his General Revelation to speak to me and remind me of my father’s ways.

REFLECTIONS ON GRACE

Growing up in a church environment as well as with a personal mindset that stressed personal holiness bordering on the elusive concept of “Christian perfection,” I did not have a firm grasp of the concept of ‘grace.’ Reading the Gospels, I understood mercy and the love of God, for sure, but grace seemed ill-defined and often misused throughout the universal Church. Reading Tozer, I could zealously agree with this statement: “We have come to our present low state as the result of an almost fanatical emphasis on grace to the total exclusion of obedience, self-discipline, patience, personal holiness, cross carrying, discipleship and other such precious doctrines of the New Testament.” (Tozer 2011, 116).

In many ways I still agree with that statement. The high calling of personal holiness is ingrained deep within my marrow, and I believe that there is a widespread misunderstanding of grace in our churches to this day. But for me, it was not until I read ‘The Hammer of God’ by Bo Giertz that I truly came to understand ‘grace’ on a personal level. The other day I came across this prayer from John Chrysostom that beautifully illustrates what I see as grace in its purest form:

“Know, O Lord my God, I am unworthy that You should enter beneath the roof of the temple of my soul, because it is all empty and dead. There is in me no worthy place where You may lay Your head. But since from Your loftiness You humbled yourself for our sake, please humble Yourself now toward my humility. And as it seemed good to You to lie in the cavern and in the manger with dumb beasts, so also now graciously lie in the manger of my dumb soul, and enter into my defiled body. Just as You did not refuse to enter into the house of Simon the leper, and there to sit at a meal with sinners, so also graciously enter into the house of my humble soul, which is leprous and sinful. Just as You did not feel loathing at the polluted lips of a sinful woman who kissed Your feet, so also do not loathe my even more defiled and polluted lips and unclean tongue. Amen.” – John Chrysostom

THE PERFECT BIBLE DESIGN

book-hi

I own approximately 18 Bibles, and that number is steadily rising. Bibles are certainly better things to collect than, say… souvenir shot glasses. But why bother? Every time I get excited about a new Bible purchase I start over at Genesis 1:1. And then I get anxiety about having to choose between which Bible to “remove” from my collection and tote around. If the most important Bible is the one you read, what practical benefit is there to hoarding so many physical copies of God’s word?

Maybe I just haven’t found “the one.”

Sure, I’ve got my go-to travel Bible. I have my ultra-deluxe Bible that my son will someday inherit. I have my wide-margin Bible for jotting theological notes. I have several niche Bibles that fulfill very specific purposes. But what I really want is ‘one Bible to rule them all.’

As far as I can tell, my dream Bible does not exist. Not yet. But if any Bible publishers are out there reading this, here is my shopping list:

TRANSLATION: New American Standard Bible – 1995 Text Update.

BINDING: Black Highland Goatskin. Smyth Sewn. Semi Yapp. Three ribbon markers. Art gilt.

PAPER: 38 GSM Tervakoski Thinopaque Bible Paper with 84% opacity.

PAGE DIMENSIONS: 9 1/8 x 6 1/4 inches (235 x 160mm).

TEXT: Single-column. Paragraph format. Black text. Line-matching. Ideally, I would like a format identical to the new ESV Reader’s Bible except for the inclusion of verse numbers. No text notes, cross-references, section headings, etc.

Until a visionary publisher creates my perfect Bible, I will have to keep playing Goldilocks. This one’s paper is too thin… this one crowds the gutter… this one has a lousy text block printed in China… this one has red letters…

Toddler Bible: the fiery thermos and other tales

Walking on water

Fiery Thermos

When our three-year old told us, “Daniel disobeyed God and the lions ate him!” we started to realize that what we teach our children is not always what they understand.

Case in point, our five-year old was “reading” the story of Elijah this morning. “Elijah was fed by raisins,” he read.

The stories seem clear enough to us when we read them to our children, but somehow input does not always equal output.

I should have known this already since my university students often understand less than I think they do. I remember teaching two semesters of IELTS preparation to one group. (IELTS is an international English language test.) After it was all over, one of my better students approached me and informed me that he was planning on studying abroad and wanted to take the IELTS exam. He then proceeded to ask me some very basic questions about the format and content of…

View original post 507 more words