Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Towards A Better Understanding of the Prominence of the Epiclesis in Reformed Worship

It has been said that a seemingly insignificant butterfly, flapping its wings in Brazil, can cause a hurricane to happen in Miami. Nadab and Abihu’s seemingly insignificant misdemeanor causes them to be consumed from a strange fire they had started. In either instance, with the hurricane season upon us this time of year, it is interesting to reflect upon the actions of God. One can look to the past from the present to re-examine the manifold actions of the Spirit in history. The proper meaning to be taken from natural disasters, significant or seemingly insignificant, is that they are currently understood to be beyond human control, but are not really out of control in the fullest sense of the meaning behind control.

Some time ago it seems, a particular prayer offered to the Spirit in the Eucharist, the epiclesis, was a major worship theme. It was considered an important action because the epiclesis acted as a safeguard from a community or its representative claiming responsibility for an action of God. The epiclesis is also an important subject to describe the presence of Christ in and with the community.

To call upon the Spirit to act, through a prayer, so that the Supper is what Christ intended it to be, is what gives the prayer of epiclesis its fearful place of prominence. What is important about the epiclesis is that it underscores the utter dependence we have upon God for our participation in the history of redemption. The epiclesis also demonstrates that the action of God is not at man’s disposal.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Cactus Cuties Sing The National Anthem

Monday, June 23, 2008

NT Wright "Space, Time, and Sacraments"

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Faust "The Light"

Mephisto has a bet with an angel that he can corrupt Faust's soul. The Devil delivers the plague to the village where elderly alchemist Faust lives and though he prays to stop the death and starvation, nothing happens so Faust makes a bargain with the Devil. He has till the sands run out in an hourglass and Satan will do as he wishes. Faust uses this to help the people of the village but they shun him when they find he now cannot face a cross. Satan gives Faust back his youth and offers him earthly pleasures and a kingdom. Faust however falls in love with a girl but he is later framed for the murder of her brother by Satan and flees to hell. The girl has a child (by Faust) but is cast out into a blizzard where the child dies and she is sent to the stake as a murderess. Faust sees what is happening and demands Satan take him there. He arrives as the fire is started, to burn her. Satan robs Faust of his youth and with nothing left to live for, Faust plunges onto the fires too to be with the woman he loves. Though an old man, she recognizes Faust and sees him as a young man again as the fires consume them together. The angel reveals to Satan that he has lost the bet because love has triumphed over all. End.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Galilean and Jerusalemite Moment

It seems to be of some manner of importance at this point in time to semantically qualify the Eucharist as being not just the sacrament, but the sacrament of the Word. There are valid reasons for doing this. For one thing, when possible, it is important to rectify an atrophied condition whenever it is encountered, and perhaps this qualification of terms would assist towards that end.

There is a mystery involved in the real presence that is unfathomable, however, it is certain that having an imbalance going on between the sermon and Eucharist is like contemplating an un-hypostatic nature within Christ.

What happens when preaching is atrophied or even eliminated? What about the inverse -- when the Eucharist becomes atrophied or eliminated? Given one or the other, the Reformed have typically atrophied or dispensed with the Eucharist first. In comparison, the RCC is more apt to atrophy or dispense with preaching first, with preaching being differentiated from keeping a homily life. Both patterns of conduct are puzzling.

When the sermon and sacrament are disproportionate to one another, or even divorced from one another, something incomplete is going on. In order to clearly demonstrate the necessity of the sermon/sacrament coherence, appealing to confessional tradition is of little help at this point with its ambivalence on the issue. Perhaps the confessional tradition is ambivalent because the Word is inseparably intertwined in preaching and sacrament. Whatever the case, it would be going down the wrong path to ask which aspect of the Word carries precedence in grace.

Heinrich Vogel described the Word as being the truth of the sacrament, and the sacrament as being the reality of the Word. Preaching would be mere theorizing about God or simply ideas were it not for the sacrament of the Word. The Eucharist signifies what has been preached, and it proves confidence in the Word that has been heard to advantage.

It is understood from the life of Christ that a combination of sermon and sacrament of the Word are a reflection of the ministry of Christ. The primarily prophetic activity of the Galilean ministry and the primarily priestly activity of the ministry in Jerusalem should likewise find their expression in worship. The Galilean aspect of Christ’s ministry corresponds to the preaching of the Word, and the priestly Jerusalem aspect of Christ’s ministry corresponds to the sacrament of the Word.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Taxonomy Of Education Psychology

Compulsory education presents a paradox to a community in that while it increases the goals of education, it also facilitates unsettling practices like social engineering experimentation.
There is something profoundly disturbing about our education system that is difficult to pin down, and there are some final thoughts that I have about why that is. Without a doubt, education, in its virtuous manifestation, is a good thing.
Innovation within a compulsory education system context has produced unprecedented technological sophistication and specialization, but this achievement has had questionable value in attaining an acceptable level of cultural excellence.
There are some interesting historical events that most likely contributed to the trade-off. It is precisely at this point that I, and probably a few other folks, have failed to be able to articulate an explanation for things like the resource/competitiveness mismatch. A good example of this resource/competitiveness mismatch is that for the amount spent on compulsory education, why is it that there is a 23rd international ranking result and an expensive set of social pathologies resulting from our technologically superior system?
For one thing, I would suppose that in order to achieve technological dominance of communist states, the concept of higher order thinking skills became a major compulsory education agenda item in the United States with the introduction of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives in 1956 by Dr. David R. Krathwohl and Dr. Benjamin S. Bloom.1 Part of this competition with communism required mimicking its behavior. On June 17, 1963, prayer was forbidden to be a part of the formal compulsory education system by a decision of the US Supreme Court.
However, innovation in these areas follows a strict legalist paradigm because of its compulsory aspect, and this introduces as many problems to education as it tries to resolve. The suppression of virtue is the destruction of a community because virtue is the building block of a community. It can probably be well demonstrated that compulsory education’s focus has shifted away from community building because it has repeatedly repudiated virtue in order to be able to emphasize the machinery that propels academics.
If virtue is not the focus, what is the focus? Dr. Bloom focused on cognitive learning and Dr. Krathwohl focused on the affective domain. Implicit in Dr. Bloom’s hierarchy is the assumption that students must pass through each level of learning as they move to more complex cognitive behavior. In the affective domain, Dr. Krathwohl also assumes that the learner will move from the lower levels to the higher. Both the cognitive and affective domains had completely matriculated into the compulsory education system curriculum by the 1990s.
What is impressive with the Bloom taxonomy approach is its attempt to quantify and therefore measure progress in learning, and only feasible and actionable verbs are used as a tool to characterize the process of learning. However, in the very middle of the Bloom taxonomy graphic is a mysterious spiral.
The first best thing about any educational system is that sound virtue is extolled so that a community is without question realized by it, and that is what the spiral in the center of the Bloom taxonomy could or should represent. This would be a return to community building. It is not so much the machinery used, the tools used, or the subject studied that attains the desirable quality of how to learn, but the virtue to learn something that can and should be engendered.

1. Bloom, B., Englehart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Starry Epiphany

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage’. When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. -- Matthew 2:17-10.

If the wise men that sought out the Christ by a Star were actually from the orient, Marco Polo was about a thousand years behind these wise men in discovering something in the other direction. Marco Polo examined a Persian site in his travels toward the orient that were purportedly the well-preserved remains of the wise men described in the biblical accounts. Marco Polo was specifically shown Persians thought to be the wise men, and they were three in number.

What if Marco Polo saw the actual remains of the wise men recorded in the biblical accounts? Then there were three total wise men that brought three gifts from afar, perhaps one each, and these wise men had made at least a 1,200 mile Star trek in their journey from Persia to Jerusalem and then Bethlehem. This evidence shown to Polo is inconclusive at this point because it is being made part of a pattern of known biblical artifact fakes that filled the cathedrals of Europe in medieval times.

What manner of phenomena was it that illumined the way for the wise men, at least first to Jerusalem? Was this ordinary cosmic activity that was then differentiated from extraordinary cosmic happenings going on in tandem or sequential order? Did something impossible in nature occur that had the Star alter its behavior, perhaps visible only to the wise men, in order to show the way to the exact house in Bethlehem? Many pieces of relational information can be examined pertaining to this very question. For example, could it be that the wise men signified the three star requirement of the Havdala? At this point in time, it is not certain what the precise number of wise men being described solely from the gospel accounts is, however, myrrh was in fact mixed with bitter wine at Sabbath time, and then refused by the Day Star Christ on the cross.

Revelation is progressive content, that is to say, the gospel accounts should only confirm what is already revealed as well as provide new information in space and time.

Despite prophecy indicating Bethlehem as the birthplace of the King, the wise men were being informed by the revelation of nature, yet it seems very possible that the special revelation given in the Star after visiting Herod was necessary to illuminate the specific house. Again, this is inferred, but the fact of the matter is that natural and special revelation are not in conflict in the events surrounding the birth of Christ; night star, morning star, or day star.

The exact chronology between the presentation of the infant Christ in the temple on day 41, the flight into Egypt, and the visit of the Magi are often disputed. This can be resolved to a happy place with a gospel harmonization of the parallel accounts addressing the period in question. What is certain is that the wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and then had a dream concerning Herod that caused them to depart the area swiftly. Right away, it is indicated in Luke 2:38 that the flight into Egypt did not occur in Luke’s stand-alone chronology because it says that right after the temple presentation, the family returned to Nazareth. However, couple Luke’s course of events with Matthew 2:12-13, and the chronology becomes quite clear that the Magi visit definitely occurred prior to the flight into Egypt in the sequence of events. This resolves some of the problems concerning the order of events, yet stopping with it there in such a rendering definitely makes Christ an infant, and the Magi are found to be worshipping an infant that had not grown at least into a catechized toddler.
So, the question remains whether the Magi and temple presentation events -- taken as a pair -- were before or after the flight into Egypt. It is impossible to rationally eliminate a brief trip to Egypt; therefore, it cannot be ruled out. The “massacre of the innocents” was about to commence, not unlike Pharaoh’s similar decree in the time of Moses, and it was a swift stroke. This time, the target was the King of the Jews; hence, Epiphany is about the Kingship of Christ.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Purity Of Analog

One of the paradoxes of the modern university system is the composite complexion of its many specialized disciplines. Yet, with something not unlike the hospital system of today springing up from religious orders or communities, the pre-university education establishment produced nothing greater than philosophy graduates from formal education church monasteries. In medieval times, one could make the case that philosophy was meant to be some sort of analog to theology, philo=man; theo=God, and all specific educational disciplines were then grouped under the general heading of philosophy. Everything to be intellectually learned other than prayer and liturgy, was grouped under “philosophy”. Of course, atheism philosophically rejects the existence of the real presence.

As history unfolded itself, philosophy definitely unanchored and marginalized itself into something quite different in its meaning for the modern age. In a world of already but not yet types and shadows, theology was to eventually become the “queen” of the sciences, proceeding as a thing given in the revelation. Philosophy was to become the “king” of the sciences, an activity proceeding from observation. Both king and queen were somehow wedded.

At the center of everything was the church.
If such a medieval social economy as this could demonstrate where philosophy really originated, it would appropriately defer to the church for the answer in those days, however, one could not really go past the academic activity right away to explain how that was. Philosophy is not really the purpose behind preaching, however, the origin of philosophy could be linked beyond the medieval monastery's academic focus to the acknowledgement found in the sacramental economy of the church itself.

Is it just a theological thing to say that preaching provides nothing different than the eucharist? Is there any philosophical aspect? With liquid gospel and eaten Word, what takes place in the activity of the eucharist is that those who accept the invitation show that they accept, by divine rite.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Faith Without Works Is...

…Like the ministry of Christ without Good Friday. To communicate, or not to communicate? That appears to be the question here.

More to the point, is the Eucharist really a necessary part of worship? That is a good question to ask one’s self if emptiness is being experienced from an absence of communion. There is a lot written about how the Eucharist cannot be a necessary component to worship, but none of it really gels with the biblical account. For one thing, the force of the Eucharistic necessity question is answered in the command of Christ to do it. In case there was some misunderstanding pertaining to the establishment of the Eucharist as a practice, Christ revealed His Church with the New Covenant in the Upper Room at Jerusalem through a Passover meal divinely transformed into a Eucharist. Anamnesis is transformed from the OT remembrance feasts pertaining to divine interventions for Israel, to “Do this in remembrance of Me”. Even though He had not been crucified yet, His blood was shed for us. There was a catechumenal aspect to the Eucharist rite, but this education occurred as it was being demonstrated.

In 1922, British mathematician and educator Alfred Whitehead, probably most noted for his book “Symbolism: Its Meaning And Effect”, ISBN: 082321138X, wrote an interesting essay titled "The Rhythm of Education”. Whitehead discussed the learning processes of students through three distinct stages he identified as romance, precision and generalization. This description of a phase-based learning process for formal education had the first-order effect of a rhythmic progression. If education itself can be said to be categorized in these ways, romance was the initial discovery and investigation with the subject being learned. It then becomes an axiom that insisting on precision too soon could stifle the initiative to go beyond, although precision and exactness are a desirable quality to aspire to. Whitehead sought the metrics of rhythm applied to education. Whitehead’s argument is a completely conceptual approach to about how things are learned. However, it cannot be argued against that much learning occurs by doing. What and how are we teaching children?

Besides the command of Christ, it is irrelevant to attempt to pit the preaching of the Word against celebrating the Eucharist at this point because the Eucharist does not give anything different than preaching. However, what does take place is that those who accept the invitation show that they accept it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Historical Entry Point Of The Dead Sea Scrolls

It seems people do look after signs for various reasons. What of the signs of the times? If one were to look for the effect of divine providence through the perspective lens of recorded history, one would find evidence of an impression of the Spirit upon that history. The problem is, history by itself explains nothing and is chaotic and meaningless in its raw state. Without its Messiah, it could be said that a secularized version of history poisons everything by making it unreliable.

Much of the canon of scripture that is recognized by the modern church relied over the centuries on a Septuagint verification process. The Septuagint is a faithful translation of the predominantly OT Hebrew into Koine Greek, perfomed shortly before the incarnation of Christ. Although a great deal is lost in translations like the Septuagint because of language differences, verification of much of the canon of today involved the Septuagint reference technique as a tool of reliability sustainment, that is, until recently.

One simply uncanny occurrence happened just prior to the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948. The sequence of events that unfolded near the Dead Sea in 1947 quickly garnered worldwide attention. The find was beyond strange, and immediately had a dramatic impact on the contemporaneous archeology, scholarship, and technology disciplines. In a series of caves, a providential discovery of a cultural treasure trove took place that not only cross-verified the historicity of the canonical books of the bible, but brought to life new information about the distant past.

In 1947, shortly after World War II, a Bedouin son of a shepherd went chasing after one of the mountain goats he was in charge of overseeing. Mountain goats are good hill climbers, and this one had decided to make a get-away up one of the cliffs of Qumran, a regional series of wadis overlooking the Dead Sea. The Bedouin boy went up the side of the cliff to retrieve the mountain goat.

Unable to lasso the fleeing animal, the boy threw stones in order to knock down the goat from a perch. One of the stones missed and landed in a cave. The stone shattered something inside this cave and at first caused a panic because the immediate concern was that someone’s property had been accidentally destroyed. After some time, curiosity overtook the boy and he reported the incident. What was then found were a series of clay pottery jars in the caves, and interestingly enough, some ancient scrolls within the jars. A detailed search of surrounding caves commenced, and in all, 11 caves were found to have similar clay jars with similar ancient scrolls and artifacts. Archeologists furthermore excavated the nearby ancient Qumran community and began to tie together various evidences of the Essene sect that were believed to have inhabited the area.

Later designated the Dead Sea scrolls by convention, a team of scientists examined the discovered collection of artifacts. The process of examining the Dead Sea scrolls was not without international intrigue, and controversy soon surrounded the project when legal action was taken by the Israeli government for cultural preservation reasons, somewhat prohibiting full scholarship to take place.

Several compositional oddities comprise the Dead Sea scrolls find. The approximate dating of the entire set was determined by resection to be around 100BC, making the undisturbed period of time the scrolls remained in the caves to be nearly 2,000 years in duration. Parchment, leather, and even copper was used to manufacture the scrolls with, which required an arsenal of modern experts and translators to accurately extrapolate what was written on each scroll through a painstaking archeological technique. Due to the extreme age and fragility caused by the deterioration of the scrolls over a long period of time, every effort to prevent destruction of a given scroll was to be made, in some cases taking scholars years to effectively accomplish a complete content rendering.

Another oddity about the Dead Sea scrolls inventory is the attempt to match recovered literary works whose titles were referenced in the bible but presumed unrecoverable today. The title matching effort from referenced books found within the bible itself yielded little with a Dead Sea scrolls comparison. The book referred to in the Pentateuch, the “Wars of the Lord” does not conclusively correlate to the Essene military instruction manual the “War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness” scroll that was the very first Dead Sea scroll found in cave 1. Some unknown works to modern minds were recovered, like the Temple Scroll, Testament of Levi, Peshers, Enoch Giants, Calendrical Document, The Allegory of the Vine, the Suffering Servant at Qumran, the Damascus Document, several hymns, and thousands of fragments that presented a formidable challenge for scholars to work with. Either the Essenes regarded what are considered to be extant works today as part of its canon when the scrolls were stored in the caves, or else the sect had an extremely rich literary culture that held high the extant works on par with the inspired, co-locating them together in the clay jars as revered writings. The Temple Scroll apparently included an additional Torah book when scholars were able to recover the scroll in its entirety in 1967, augmenting the already mysterious quality of the Dead Sea scrolls discovery.

In fact, all of the pre-incarnation Old Testament books of the bible had been definitively uncovered at Qumran except one, and along with these many other odd written works, one particular codex is believed by some to be the earliest existing fragments of the book of Mark. Aside from some unsuccessful work done to recover the book of Nehemiah, the most odd thing of the entire Dead Sea scrolls record is the fact that book of Esther did not turn up at all. Why is that? There is wild speculation about the omission of the book of Esther from such a rich and comprehensive find as the Dead Sea scrolls. For instance, it has been postulated that the book of Esther’s omission is its possible conflict with the esoteric systematic theology of the Essene sect. Many more theories exist about an Israeli government conspiracy, or a mere happenstance that Esther was not found. Interpretive speculation about the book of Esther’s missing in action status in the Dead Sea scrolls inventory has led to such presumptuous claims as Christ authoring these scrolls Himself. The necessary inference that Christ must have then been an early Essene follows the Christological authorship logic further.

Recent scholarly work on some of the odd extant Dead Sea scroll manuscripts have made a convincing case that some of the mysterious fragments contain “Proto-Esther” writings. The Dead Sea scrolls today continue to raise important questions across many different fields of specialized disciplines that directly bear upon the artifacts. The Dead Sea scrolls are still somewhat inconclusive about the questions they raise, not because of a lack of available data to scholars, but because the exhaustive scope of the work needed to be performed on these scrolls remains to be done. To this day, unresolved facets about the Dead Sea scroll contents remain highly speculative and controversial requiring amplification and closer illumination.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reformed of Both Kinds

For many, the irruption of the Kingdom in life is recognized in the event of Reformed worship, which is ostensibly a well-informed one. Many people do take delight in the theology or rational processes involved, however, not everyone can participate in that way. The Spirit blesses, so the church growth aspect has somewhat different measures of effectiveness than a secular organization.

Rediscovery of the glory in the practice of a genuinely Reformed eucharist is more than likely one measure of church growth effectiveness. The re-emergence of a shared appreciation for the eucharist truly is a source of happiness for me, and probably a lot of parishioners also. I have to pause every now and then to just take wonder, and that may be part of the meaning in the term eucharist.

One such rediscovery is to be found in the difficult question of sacrifice. This is something like referring to the eucharist as a feast when we understand a feast to be about the measure of consumption. However, that is more about the view of the physical presence in the elements. The eucharist is in fact a feast, but not in the secular sense of the meaning. Although there is a wealth of reliable and varied commentary on what goes on with the eucharist, the sacrifical aspect of the eucharist seems conspicuously absent.

If we carefully respect the sacrifice that is to be found in the eucharist, it is by no means a sacrifice of propitiation. It is still a sacrifice, but excluded by the sufficiency and uniqueness of the cross. So, the distinction would be between a sacrifice of propitiation, and a eucharistic sacrifice. The sacrament is the means with which the Spirit gives us to Christ and incorporates us into His salvation.