Archives For July 2016

mountains-768459__180Having been embedded in the online Barthian community for some time now, I’ve come to observe three tiers of online Barthian “scholarship” and engagement:

First there are those who think that they own Barth. The elitist, who knows everything, and anyone who questions their particular position on Barth, are simply “ignorant and intolerant” religious right-wingers and therefore, wrong. The message carried being: “after all, you’re a peasant who couldn’t possibly understand Barth, let alone what I’ve actually written about Barth. Besides, my ivy league credentials, well-established, tenured academic life, and level of social media influence over-rules yours.”

The second tier supports tier one. The Barthian scholarship fanbois. Giving approval, and whipping up support to the labelling, in order to use it to further their own Left-wing preconceptions and prejudices. Most recently seen in the recent rise in anti-trumpism (or to borrow from left-wing phobic labelling lingo, “Trumpophobia”) within the Barthian theoblogosphere.

The general argument, if not spoken loudly, quietly inferred:“Barth was a leftist [he wasn’t]. He would have considered Trump to be like Hitler and anyone who supported him, a Nazi” – any Christian who doesn’t agree with this assessment is a “German christian”, and is to be brought to judgement before the people’s court of tier one.

Those who question the fanbois silence about what Barth would say about Clinton, or the direction, behaviour and politics of the Democrats in general, are likely to find themselves standing alone. Not without a shunning or whip statement thrown at them, of some description, for good measure.

Anyone who seeks to show that the greater parallels, to 1930s Germany, doesn’t primarily [note, I said primarily] exist in the rhetoric of Republicans, but in the growing list of left-wing “social justice causes”, needs to, “get off your high horse.” As was suggested to me when I congenially questioned the responses to Calvinists by Barthians on the very public, Facebook, Karl Barth Discussion Group.

Tier two lays down the unspoken law: don’t question us, provide an alternative perspective or speak about the more concerning, already existing historical parallels. Such as the increasingly one-sidedness of the black lives matter movement, the increasing pseudo-militancy of “social justice” warriors, Islamic terrorism; widespread abortion, gay marriage – and the selective misuse of the bible to justify it, pride flags and its associated ideology being forced on churches, total ideological indoctrination of our youth via control of schools and Universities, the hostile opposition to questions, the imposition of new cultural laws and a lean towards universal antisemitism in the left’s association with anti-Israel movements (et.al).

It goes without saying then that anyone who dares to question any reckless misplacement of historical parallels, in regards to what Barth might have said or thought, is either conveniently ignored or ridiculed into some form of submission. Real community involvement is only welcomed if it’s conformist involvement.

The third tier exists of two sub-groups. Those who speak up and those who silently disagree with tiers one and two.{The former consists of those who seek to do theology with Karl Barth, not use it to feed self-interest or police by selectively apply it, such as, conscripting his theology into the service of an ideological position. In part, the first sub-group pushes back against this, putting into praxis one of the consistant themes of Barth’s theological approach, identified by Tim Gorringe, in ‘Barth:Against Hegemony, 1999‘ that ‘all theology worthy of the name is a critique of ideology’ (see pp.71, 99, 115; et.al)}* The latter sub-group sees the fallacies and the diversions caused by misplacing historical parallels, yet say nothing about what’s actually going on.

The positive to all this is that third tier Barthian scholars are in the majority. The negative is what can perhaps be considered as the rise of Barthian Gnosticism and the hijacking of Karl Barth.

The relevant caveat:

‘The nature of a thing cannot be changed; whoever tries to “alter” its nature destroys the thing.’
(Voegelin, 1968) [i]

Barthian scholarship, in its online format, is yet to exceed the superiority of its face-to-face counterpart. For Barthian scholarship to survive in its online enclosure, it will need this third tier, with all the prayer, patience, humility and moxie it can muster.

‘Repentance will lead us to watch and not to sleep; it will guide our steps to life and not to death. It follows that silence, which has certainly much to commend it, will not be a mournful silence, but the natural and fruitful self-restraint of those who have privately too much to do to indulge freely in talk. It follows that prayer will not lead us away from political thought and action of a modest but definite kind, but will rather lead us directly into purposeful conflict. It follows that the new public spirit will be not only a goal, not only the subject of all kinds of teaching, pastoral work and discussion, but, above all and at once, a beginning— the spirit of a Christian repudiation of defeat, the spirit of a Christian approach to a new and better resistance, the spirit of Christian hope which is not disposed to leave the field to the demons.’
(Barth, 1940′ [ii]

[i] Voegelin, E. 1968 Science, Politics and Gnosticism:Two Essays Regnery Publishing

[ii] Barth, K. 1940 2nd Letter To the French Protestants in Loconte, J [ed.] 2004 The End of Illusions: Religious Leaders Confront Hitler’s Gathering Storm p.179

Image: courtesy of Pixabay

*updated for clarity 2/8/2016

GB 1Ghostbusters along with Star Wars IV, is one of the movies, that as a kid, I remember watching over and over again. I’d fast-forward the VHS tape past the opening scene in the library and go straight to the title. It was part “skip-the-scary-bit” and part, just get me to the Ray Parker Jr, theme song.

As far as the remake goes, each of the main actresses were convincing enough, but they had big shoes to fill. The pressure on them to meet such a high standard would have been enormous. Taking all this into consideration it’s not a really bad film.

Best expressed through the general response of my daughters: “the movie was okay. I liked the gadgets, but there was not enough guys, and they made Chris Hemsworth look dumb.”

Or best summed up by Richard Lawson in his review for Vanity Fair:

‘Ghostbusters is a flat, occasionally charming disappointment. While certainly funny in parts, Paul Feig’s much-debated reboot can’t find its groove…There are brief highlights [but the] film is largely an uninspired slog, everyone doing their best to get to the end without screwing things up too much’ (source)

I had my own thoughts on it, so here’s a short, 16 point review:

1. Cerebrally effortless, fun movies, do exist.

2. Ghostbusters can fit all genres. If you liked The Golden Girls this one’s for you – (minus the humour of Estelle Getty)

3. If you’re obsessed with the Ghostbuster movies, then this is an edition that’ll uniquely sparkle in any pristine, shrink-wrapped, for-display-only, collection.

4. If you like to see men, particularly Australian men, portrayed as dim-witted buffoons, then you’ve picked a winner.

5. If you’re ideologically bent towards supporting the emasculation of a classic, it’s for you, but in answer to the question “who ya gonna call?” – perhaps, first, call a therapist, not Ghostbusters. #justsayin

6. Crude statements about how a woman’s anatomy works, no matter how subtle, doesn’t communicate well for any actor selling a story to a wider audience, outside the teen angst bracket.

7. The storyline was strong enough to withstand the small amount of innuendos.

8. Overreaching in order to empower feminism disempowers feminism (and almost squeezes the life out of everything it touches).

9. Outside the Gilmore Girls, I’m not a big fan of Melissa McCarthy’s later work. (You deserve better, you can do so much better because you’ve done so much better).

10. Hollywood peaked in 1984. It’s been on a slow downward slide since. It seems to have literally run out of really cool, original ideas.

11. Bill Murray is still one of the coolest comedians alive, and Ernie Hudson must be part Vulcan, he’s hardly aged at all.

12. Chris Hemsworth, Australia thanks you for Thor, but we’re pulling faces and scratching our heads over this one, mate.

13. Hollywood is still capable of making a comedy without copious amounts of swearing or sexual innuendos [thumbs up]. It’s the genius in the legacy of Dean & Jerry, the Dick Van Dyke show, Mchales Navy, and Hogan’s Heroes.

14. Ecto-1 remains one of the coolest pop culture cars to have ever been created. With the ban on the General Lee, Ecto-1  moved into the number 4 slot, just under the A-team’s GMC van, KITT & the Delorean.

15. It doesn’t matter how awkward a movie might seem, gizmos and gadgets always make it better.

16. The modern liberal quest for what it, and it alone, determines to be tolerance and equality, creates inequality. In well-timed humour, on screen chemistry and one-liners, this reboot of Ghostbusters is not even close to being equal to its predecessor.

Does the movie speak to it’s audience and Ghostbusters fans? Yes, sometimes.

Does it do anything for feminism? Yes, however not in the way I suspect that it might have been intended. It shows that the frown of feminist idealism is kryptonite. That it’s misandry and overshadowing hypocritical disapproval of men, is toxic. Feminism is fundamentally about empowering women to be as equal-in-value as men. Any medium that betrays this platform rests not on talent, wit and moxie, but on a destructive ideology that perverts feminism, and clouds its positive achievements.

The absence of Ivan Rietmann and Dan Ackroyd is noted. Although, Ackroyd, Hudson and Murray make a cameo appearance, they’re not credited as being directly involved in the remake, which might explain the movie’s awkwardness. The brilliance of the first film was its disciplined balance between the serious and the silly. The retake barely seems to attempt to do the same. Paul Feig (Director/Writer) and Katie Dippold (Writer) could have made the story line deeper and tapped into the tension Reitmann maintained. It’s not clear why they didn’t choose to go in this same direction.

Putting the apparent hi-jacking of Ghostbusters by feminist idealism aside. Dedicated fans of the franchise might not be as thrilled as the fans of Batman were with Nolan’s trilogy, or Bay’s Transformers, however, they’ll probably be more forgiving. This is because Ghostbusters, the reboot, isn’t just a remake. Its in-part, an interesting retake on the whole Ghostbusters story.


Note: Thoughts expressed here are my own. I received no payment of any kind for this review.

Trailer: Ghostbusters, 2016 Sony Pictures

Truth RL2016I like to read a book, then read what that author read before writing that book.

One thing we’re big on in theology [we have to be] is literary criticism:part of this scientific process is taking a statement back to its original source through questions, analysis, research and faith-filled dialogue about our reasoned conclusions.

It’s a sure guard against deception and ignorance. We want [or rather need] to be as sure as we can be that when and where God has chosen to speak, we are able to clearly hear and discern that Word.

A good reason for our focus on this is highlighted by Eric Voegelin in his 1968 book, Science, Politics & Gnosticism:

‘The deception of the reader occurs when a text or citation is separated from its context and is used in isolation from it’s original intended meaning.’ [i] (paraphrased)

Voegelin had just gotten through explaining how Karl Marx in his doctoral dissertation of 1840–41 misrepresented the statement, “In a word, I hate all the gods” , from Prometheus in Aeschylus’ ‘Prometheus Bound.’

Stating that, “anyone who does not know Prometheus Bound must conclude that the quoted “confession” sums up the meaning of the tragedy, not that Aeschylus wished to represent hatred of the gods as madness.”

‘In this confession, in which the young Marx presents his own attitude under the symbol of Prometheus, the vast history of the revolt against God is illuminated as far back as the Hellenic creation of the symbol.’ [ii]

From Genesis to Revelation on into Church History, the lesson is clear enough: not everyone who claims to speak for God is actually of God. We need to ask faith-filled questions, have a well-informed BS meter and in humility come to a conclusion about what is and is not genuinely of God. We do this by first establishing the what, where and to whom God has revealed Himself; what God has consistently revealed about Himself to humanity from outside of humanity.

Bonhoeffer, in his lectures on Genesis, recorded in DBW3: ‘Creation and Fall‘, substantiates good reasons for this process. According to him, in the Garden, God’s Word was used as a weapon against God. The result being a catastrophic fallout between the creature and its benevolent Creator.

The power to decree that which is right and wrong, good and evil, is now considered to have been taken up into the hands of humanity. Rather than a new day dawning [enlightenment], darkness descends [truth is hijacked] and humanity descends with it. The source that determines what good and evil is, is relocated; reassigned by, and lowered down to a Creatorless humanity. Humanity in its abstraction from God devours itself. Burdened with lust for dominion and power it seeks to overthrow God – “they want the kingdom, but they don’t want God in it” [iii]; which as we’re told in the Biblical accounts, is ultimately destined to failure and the overbearing governance of unjust, corrupt rulers.

‘Thus for their knowledge of God human beings renounce the word of God that approaches them again and again out of the inviolable center and boundary of life; they renounce the life that comes from this word and grab it for themselves. They themselves stand in the center. This is disobedience in the semblance of obedience, the desire to rule in the semblance of service […]’ [iv]

But this doesn’t happen without a decisive response from God. He isn’t wounded outside His own choosing  [e.g.: as He does for our sakes in Jesus Christ]. Neither is He killed off. Instead humanity is found to have mortally wounded itself.

However, God shows compassion. He acknowledges this and graciously intervenes, providing covering for nakedness, discipline (when necessary), direction and posterity. Despite its new rebellious claim-to-godlike knowledge and power. Its misuse of the divine-human relationship to oppress, deify self, murder and deceive. His creature is not abandoned. God remains God for us, even when He disagrees and takes a stand against us.

“Blessed is the man or woman who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They are like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when the heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

God chooses not to jettison His creature and instead chooses to heal and save it. Even though His creature is now so fused with, and consumed by the maddening effects of the primal Human act that deceptively puts God’s Word to use against Him.

‘That is the ultimate possible rebellion, that the lie portrays the truth as a lie. That is the abyss that underlies the lie—that it lives because it poses as the truth and condemns the truth as a lie.’ [iv]

Sources:

[i] Voegelin, E. 1968, Science, Politics & Gnosticism: Two Essays, (paraphrased). Kindle (Loc.492)

[ii] ibid, 1968

[iii] Johnny Cash, U2 ‘The Wanderer’

[iv] Bonhoeffer, D 1937, Creation & Fall, Fortress Press (pp.109-116)

[v] ibid, 1937

On Monday we traveled further into Genesis. Reaching chapter 28 we came to see through Jacob’s experiences that Genesis points us towards how God encounters humanity.

How He identifies Himself as Creator and gracious provider. How He chooses to act and guide humanity with the firm, but loving actions of a responsible parent. How God initiates real relationship; desires and invites participation, not ruling over a stage, strings or puppets.

We saw the constant invitation to be part of God’s life. Yet, witnessed the reoccurring [ontological] themes of deception, human self-will [the will to dominion], self-glorification, fear, people-pleasing, betrayal, the importance of community, the universal value of a family, and how that begins and is nurtured within the coming together in relationship of a man with woman; woman with man. This extends into a shared story of relationship as that is passed down to the men and women who follow them.

We read along, immersed in the stories of peoples lives. We moved with them as those stories became a historical testimony to God’s interaction with humanity from the very beginning of His creatures existence.

The overarching theme is God’s faithfulness in spite of humanities lean towards unfaithfulness.

‘But I call this to mind and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.
(Lamentations, 3:21-24, ESV)

It’s in this place, to this place, from this place of understanding that we’re called into and commanded to go out from.

Summarized:

 Dare to hope.

 Dare to believe.

 Dare to trust.

 Dare to love.

 Dare to say “yes” & say “no”.

 Dare to pray.

 Dare to be grateful.

 Dare to speak truth in love.

 Dare to forgive.

 Dare to remember.

 Dare to firmly grasp God’s hand when He lowers Himself to stretch His out to you.

 Dare to make an effort.

 Dare to be.

 Dare to rest.

 Dare to learn and understand.

 Dare to humbly disagree.

 Dare to thrive, not just survive.

 Dare to see God’s love.

 


Notes: Video, image and arrangement is mine. Inspired by Jesus Culture, and with permission from our homeschoolers I used my iphone to record them playing and singing, Tom Lockely’s, ‘See His Love‘, during one of our ‘God, Life and the World around us’ morning lessons. As far as accompanying them, I’ve apparently trained myself out of a job. All I did here was add some lead, bass, keys and mixed it together.

Bonhoeffer_1944_LPP_Quote_action and responsibilitySeventy-two years on, Bonhoeffer’s words speak with a sharp relevance:

I hear men in angry mood. Innumerable voices in wild confusion, a dumb choir assaults the ear of God.
“Hunted by men and maligned, defenceless and guilty to their mind, by intolerable burdens abused, yet we declare them the accused.
We accuse those who drove us to the evil deed, who allowed us to share their guilty seed, who made us witnesses of the just abused, only to despise those they had used.
Our eyes must see violence, entangling us in their guilty offence; then as they silence our voice, like dumb dogs we have no choice.
We learned to call lies just, uniting ourselves with the unjust. When violence was done to the weak, our cold eyes did not speak.
And what in sorrow our hearts had broken, remained hidden and unspoken. We quenched our burning ire and stamped out the inner fire.
Sacred bonds by which we once were bound are now torn and fallen to the ground, friendship and truth betrayed, tears and remorse in ridicule displayed.
We sons from upright men descended, who once rights and truth defended, have now become despisers of God and man, amidst the mocking laughter of hell’s plan
(From Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ‘Nächtliche Stimmen; Voices In The Night)

Bonhoeffer’s poem is a lament. It’s complex and partly sporadic, even though it holds to a basic theme and structure.

Edwin Robertson suggests that Dietrich, who was in prison at the time, was anxious. He had found out that the ‘Valkyrie Plot’ {20th July, 1944} had failed. Consequently he was concerned that the contents of the poem might ‘end up in the wrong hands,’[i] endangering his friends and family.

What is clear from Bonhoeffer’s words in ‘Nächtliche Stimmen’ is that he lamented the conforming silence of the German majority and lamented the necessity of his role in the July plot. There is also a sense of anger at being forced into violence because of an unrelenting assault from those who insist on being violent. Being a early and loud opponent of mass hysteria, Nazism and a leader of dissent in the Church over the Aryan clause in particular, he was more than aware that the window of opportunity for Christians and Non-Christians to act without force had long since passed.The question that sits over this is, how did we as a people let it get so bad?

Apart from there being very strong political parallels that describe how conservatives are pushed into a corner, where no matter what their response it, it’s tainted by the violence and abuse that cornered them. There are lessons here for the 21st Century Christian community. For instance: authentic Christian activism ought to be able to neutralise the necessity for extreme action. We can approach the world with a ‘readiness for responsibility’ in spite of its sometimes hostile, virulent and internal opposition.

We see examples of this ‘readiness for responsibility’ in the ‘Acts’ of the Apostles where Peter met with the Roman Centurion, Cornelius (10:1-33), and when Paul spoke to the intellectual elite in the Areopagus Council[ii] (17:22-34).

Learning from the mistakes of the past, being able to employ a ‘readiness for responsibility’[iii], as Bonhoeffer terms it, is about participants being encouraged to avoid rage-based responses. Helping our Christian communities aim for balance without detrimental compromises, empowering others to better discern and persuasively respond when attacks are maliciously calculated in order to elicit a negative reaction.

The Christian response needs to include a deliberate challenge to the over-the-top reactionary position. It seeks to prevent any damage to the ability of Christians entering into a missional relationship with a hurting and bruised world. Anything short of this restricts healthy dialogue, unnecessarily turning opponents into enemies. Ultimately only succeeding to feed the “mocking laughter of hell’s plan”.

Here we see the significance of Phillip Yancey’s chilling caveat in ‘What’s so amazing about Grace?‘:

‘Will grace, ”the last best word”, the only unsullied theological word remaining in our language, go the way of so many others? In the political arena, has it come to mean its opposite? In another context, Nietzsche gave this warning, which applies to modern Christians: “Be careful, lest in fighting the dragon you become the dragon.” (1997:292)

 


Sources:

[i] Robertson, E. 1999 Prison Poems Zondervan Grand Rapids p.66

[ii] ‘The Areopagus included only those of highest status in this university community’,Keener, C. S, 1993. The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. (Ac 17:33–34).

[iii] Bonhoeffer, D. 1944 On the Baptism of D.R. Bethge, in Letters and Poems from Prison, Kindle Ed.

Panoramics

July 13, 2016 — Leave a comment

On a recent field trip for homeschool we made some random stops at lookouts. Not only were these opportunities to rest, they gave us the opportunity to give the underused panoramic feature on the iphone a decent workout. The first image is slightly warped because the structure we were standing was flexible. It seemed to move with the wind, but did, however, definitely move when someone bounced up and down on it. Fun sky pier. All up our total kilometers traveled equaled 2010kms.

‘You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me…You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.’ (Psalm 18:36, ESV)

Sealy Lookout (Coffs Harbour, NSW):

Sealy Lookout

Big Pineapple (Nabmour, QLD):

Big Pineapple

Wildhorse Mountain fire tower looking West towards the Glass House Mountains (what remains of old Volcanos): (Sunshine Coast, QLD)

Wildhorse Mountain Fire Lookout

Montville looking East towards the pacific ocean – the Great Barrier Reef is not far off from there:  (Nambour, QLD)

Montville

 

Inhaling Grace

July 1, 2016 — 6 Comments

dysfunctional family surivivorNo matter how much forgiveness helps us to resolve conflict, if people thrive on the conflict, then conflict will inevitably remain. Sometimes you’ll find yourself stuck between a rock and hard place. Where no matter what approach you embark on, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Learning to move on from this graciously, responsibly and wisely, will require us to make an effort. In the New Testament Jesus tells us to breathe in grace and exhale dust.

To do so seeks to reshape our circumstances, redefine relationships, and in revolt against the chaos, breathe in the hope of rescue and restoration.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Our “hell” is countered by the God who rolls stones and raises the dead (John 11/2 Cor.1:9).

This intercession is the reality of the cross where our brokenness is consumed and replaced by a resurrected life.

Although scars remain, restoration is a real possibility.

This is because the stone has been rolled away by choice. We can then breathe, receive and put on, a new nature (Colossians), through a newness of life (Ephesians) because Jesus Christ stepped into the darkness and pierced it with light.

This is what the new instrumental below expresses. As for the creative process. I just prayed, sat down and in six hours had this gem pulled together. If I had the time to improve on it, I’d seek to make the song more tighter. Especially with the lead in to the first chorus and work a roll through the tom-toms into it. (For the best quality, good speakers or headphones are recommended).

‘Dust is an emblem of a state of condemnation’ [Genesis 3: 14; Micah 7: 17.]
(Albert Barnes, Commentary on Numbers)

Happy Friday, folks. 🙂

 

 


Image: Pinterest

Video and image featured is my own.

Related post:Exhaling Dust, Inhaling Grace