Trolls – living like dogs

6 08 2008

Although I’m a fan of Tolkien’s work, these trolls are real, and are a potential hazard for bloggers. Have a look at the NY Times article link at the bottom of this post
I think this community define what Cynicism really means: “to live like a dog.”

They are a product, I believe, of Stoic Godlessness (or atheism if you prefer) and some of the rubbish we’ve been fed about the unavoidable demise of the planet.

You may disagree with me, but this is what I mean when I say it is dangerous to demand global behaviour based on unsubstantiated theories.
It is amazing just how easily the human mind can be reduced to a national tragedy!

If you disagree with me read page 4 and 5 about Weev who has obviously watched The Matrix one too many times and has abandoned his real identity and is basically causing havoc while he waits for 2 things: 1. the digital “messiah” to receive a calling and lead the trolls out of their caves and 2. for the world to finally spiral out of ecological control which someone as intelligent, young and connected as himself believes is imminent.

The Trolls Among Us

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Is God a Bigamist?

17 07 2008

I think that Doolally’s post Is God a Bigamist? deserves a bit more consideration for one reason… it’s an excellent question.

I mean the bible is literally chock full of God Romance, isn’t it? All through the narrative in the Old Testament we see God pursuing His people like a lover pursuing a flirting, impetuous girl. In the prophets we see God’s jealousy and anger at her waywardness, so easily abandoning her covenant with Him. And Song of Songs is so sexually explicit that it should be rated.
In the New Testament it’s a little more doctrinal but the same theme carries straight on. Right up till Revelations where we find what can only be described as the consummation of a great marriage – The Wedding Feast of all wedding feasts. God, it turns out, will get married to His people.

Well then, is Doolally not right? After all there are many people, and only one God.
Yes, Doolally is right, but not in the way she describes, she stops too soon, at an observed religious devotion. Doolally is describing religious monasticism – nuns and monks, as if there was a choice between marrying a person and marrying God. As if God was jealous somehow of human sexual intimacy and only those sexually pure enough get to marry God.

I don’t blame Doolally for this view, it’s the default presentation of the church to the world (in fact I feel like I should apologise for it). But thankfully, it’s not the biblical view. And when one looks it becomes very obvious as to why forced celibacy for the clergy is the wrong approach in Christianity.
It’s not even biblical; the first four verses of 1 Timothy 4 calls it a demonic doctrine taught by “hypocritical liars”.
Celibacy itself may not be wrong for an individual, in fact I would think for some marriage would be completely wrong, but to force those serving in the church to remain single is about as unbiblical as one can get. It’s in the same league as the Crusades. And Doolally is spot on when she says: “By denying sex to priests, the church is creating its own problems.” More accurately by denying the human covenant of marriage to priests; with all the warmth, friendship, honesty and intimacy that goes with it (including sex); the church is creating its own problems.
I’ts so anti-biblical that I cannot see how such a place can even be called a church.

The answer to the accusation of Divine bigamy is, I believe, found in a little mystery we call “unity”. Another thread running through scripture from Adam & Eve through the tower of Babel right into the New Testament and on to the same Marriage Consummation. God is not marrying a multiple personality disorder, He is marrying one bride. How that will work I only have little personal glimpses.
I can see that my wife and I can sometimes be ‘one’. the way we talk and think (some people say we even look like eachother). As time goes on we get better and better at it; and it’s not all sexual ‘oneness’ I’m talking about – although that tends to be the oneness foremost in my mind… what can I say, I’m a man.
If unity exists in a Platonic sense – there must be an ultimate Unity. If there is an ultimate Unity, then the Bride of God would be it.
Why are there many of us, not just one? Why did God not leave that rib in Adam? Why go to all the trouble of taking it out, making a woman and then presenting her to him, and then calling them “one flesh”? Adam was ‘one flesh’ in the beginning, what’s the added complication all about?
It’s about Unity, it’s a reminder, the whole Adam/Eve narrative is a metaphor. Keeping Adam single would have been very pragmatic (and he would not have known the difference)… but there would have been no human relationship, no intimacy… and no sex.
Forced sexual denial by religious celibacy ultimately means absolutely nothing except perhaps confusion and frustration. Paul puts it quite well in 1 Corinthians 15:19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” More so for those who don’t even get to have sex in the hope that their religious piety will somehow give them favour with God!

Now by extension we cannot conclude that if forced religious celibacy is wrong then animal, pheromonal sex – ‘whenever and with whomever’ sex – is logically right. An excess of Stoicism does not vindicate a lifestyle Hedonism.
I would suggest that if you are going to look for a biblical model of sexuality you are going to find sexual pleasures that are more satisfying and lasting than your wildest expectations – I suggest this because I have looked and I have found. But sex is not an end in itself. Like I said, we tend to stop too soon, we draw conclusions on other’s faith instead of finding out for ourselves.
We think that the bible is always trying to make us control our passions (especially sexual ones), because they are too strong… actually the bible is trying to open our eyes to what heights of sustained ecstasy our passions can take us under the right bridle (if you’ll excuse the pun). We tend to settle for so little when we could have so much.

I think that what the bible says about sex is that finding Mr Right starts with finding the right God, it does not work the other way round. He’s not jealous of our sexuality, actually He designed sex to remind us of a happiness and fruitfulness we have forgotten so thoroughly that we cannot even remember having forgotten it!





Google’s Thesis of Data

17 07 2008

In a well researched article Wired’s Chris Anderson tells us that the scientific process is drowning, it seems unable to ‘tread data’:
http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory
It is followed up with some excellent examples:
http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_intro

Sixty years ago,” he says, “digital computers made information readable. Twenty years ago, the Internet made it reachable. Ten years ago, the first search engine crawlers made it a single database. Now Google and like-minded companies are sifting through the most measured age in history, treating this massive corpus as a laboratory of the human condition.

forget Terabytes – we are now in the Petabyte age and we have the Google-geek tools to surf the waves of the data oceans, picking what we want from the bounty.
In the process the vehicle of science has been forced to install and run a hybrid engine, and it is getting much more mileage out of the ‘data’ part than it ever did out of the ‘hypothesis’ part.
By default humankind has discovered that with data and Google, no one needs a theory any more. With the right info, hardware and software engines; professorships, theories and published peer-reviewed papers are becoming obsolete.
It calls for an entirely different approach, one that requires us to lose the tether of data as something that can be visualized in its totality. It forces us to view data mathematically first and establish a context for it later.

It’s an interesting development, but it’s hard to imagine it as progress. What concerns me is that humankind is being asked… no it is being demanded of humans, that we think less than we ever have before, and that we reserve our imagining for our entertainment only.
We are handing our very selves over to untethered information, and no one is asking why and by whom it was tethered in the first place.
One can see this quite plainly one looks at the plethora of human data. We are ‘chopped and diced’ into a million pieces depending of how the machine desires to look at us: dna determined destiny subjects, poll influenced voter trendsters, brand infused identity grabbers, demograph earners, gene coded fatalists, epidemic distributors, mass trend drivers, uba-consumers, culture catchers… the list is literally endless.

You see I think that data has always had a context, indeed data without context is Frankenstein. I don’t think that there is a community on earth that should be so data addicted that we look for a context after we’ve had our fix… that’s tantamount to mass drunk driving.
We’ve been blinded by science, now science has been blinded by data. I’m holding out for the return to logic again. And my advice is this: just think it through before you swallow it.





Letter from America

17 07 2008

Does anyone remember Alistair Cooke’s weekly radio piece “Letter from America.” It should have been a blog, he was a man before his time.

I am a South African and I’ve been in the US for about 2 weeks now, and I’ll probably be here for another week or so. So I thought it would be good to write something from here for all my South African readers. Some US readers may find it interesting also.

It’s quite a change being in rural northern Kenya a month ago with the arms trade and the teams clearing out land mines in southern Sudan and the primitive life, and then being in NY and LA.
We were on the tarmac at JFK for 4 hours, waiting in a line to take off, and that on the back of a 10 hour layover. That’s the last time I use a travel agent (no offense meant it you are one).

Right now I’m in a city that rivals Cape Town for it’s beauty… Seattle.
It’s a marvelous place, water everywhere you look. Eagles, Ospreys and Deer all around you, and the biggest trees you could imagine. Apparently the early colonial prospectors, looking for anything that could be used to bolster the slave driven, European rival-economies of 400 years ago, reported that the timber here was “too large to be practically harvested”. Of course industrial milling changed all that and Tacoma – a city 100km south of Seattle – was a millers paradise.
Actually at the moment I’m staying closer to Tacoma than to Seattle, right at the end of the Puget Sound in a beautiful little place called Gig Harbor (no u’s in harbor here). Mount Ranier is visible at this time of year, it’s a perennial snow capped peak engineered over the centuries by the volcanic release of the San Andreas fault. This whole coastal region before the rockies is beautifully punctuated by these massive mountains with their heads in the clouds.

One of the attractions here is a ride on a Seattle ferry, something which I insist on doing whenever I’m here (and my wife just rolls her eyes). And this afternoon is ferry ride time! These ferries take about 30-100 vehicles and a couple hundred people, maybe as much as 1000 – I don’t know; and are a little like a floating mall. And the scenery from the ferry is just gorgeous everywhere you look; the ride is about an hour and a half.
Seattle city is one of those places that just oozes culture and beauty. It’s intelligent in every way, an obvious reflection of the people and the culture, and it’s about as photogenic as a city can be.
Friday is independence day and we’ll go and hang with the patriots at a fare at Federal Way. Along with Ben & Jerry’s pink Harley ice-cream bikes; Air Force Tomcats and 2nd WW Mustangs (and a Harrier or two); and fundamentalist Christians with sandwich boards and flyers yelling “Turn or Burn!”
Now when I say ‘fare’ what I mean is about 5-10km of beachfront with stalls and shops and food (so much food) and trucks and music and games and activities… it’s a little overwhelming and impossible to do in one day.
And then the fireworks, which have to be seen to be appreciated.

But it’s pretty clear, being here, that the American lifestyle is under more pressure than ever before since the war of independence. Locals blame it on terrorism, oil prices and a myriad of other things. But the reality is that the American dream-society is crumbling from within. Somewhere an invisible line of liberality has been crossed; there has been one too many ludicrous law suits, and it seems to me that America has crossed a point of no return.
But still, it’s nice to bask a bit in the glow of a brilliant, but fading, star.





Kendell & Eaton

21 04 2008

We are currently busy with a week’s worth of Michael Eaton and RT Kendell teaching on one topic: The gift of Teaching in the body of Christ.

So far we have had one session from each of them but they are covering topics so close to our debate that I thought I must include some quotes:

Eaton on the text :Acts 8:26-35Do you understand what you are reading?

1. “We have to go back to the 1600’s to find the last time God’s Word was used so little by God’s people.

2. “Feminism has strange repercussions. I heard the other day that ‘Jesus suggested to the Father that he come and save the world & the father consented to the idea.’ As if there was some democratic process in the Godhead. It comes from the influence of the feminist movement. If you have trouble with man being the head of women, then you have trouble with the Father being the head of Christ.

3. “Scripture is both a record of God’s revelation and, at the same time, revelation itself.

4. “The Ethiopian was a man who recognised that he had got stuck. Despite having the Word he also needed help understanding it.
Guidelines:
1. Get help: contemporary and old.
2. Recognise that the bible is written in very simple language.
Most heresy comes from twisting language, fragmenting sentences and complicating what is there. The smallest unit of meaning is the sentence. Don’t try exegete one word alone.
3. The way to understand anything is to put it into context. Hearing the words does not enable understanding. When you see what God was saying then then you will see what He is saying now.The theme of the bible is God’s salvation offer of Jesus to those in sin. If you preach any other main theme in the bible you will go skew. It’s not about faith for money, it’s not about ‘having a good self image’.
4. read your bible in the presence of Jesus. See Jesus in it, all over it.

Kendell on the text Matthew 22:23-33 ” 29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.

1. “Jesus said that the Spirit will remind you. If there is nothing to remind then what?
You have to put God’s Word into your head for the Holy Spirit to remind you of it.

2. “The Saducees were feeling smug. How many of us have the objectivity to see where we are wrong and to admit it.

3. “Gnosis = debatable knowledge, Oida = Fact.
Jesus said to the Saducees: ‘You don’t even know the facts.’

4. “‘Thank you for your word.’ is the response of those who come to hear.
‘The Spirit moved in power’ is the enthusiastic response of those who come to see.
The day will come when those who come to hear will see and those who come to see will hear. Then we will have, back in our churches, the astonishment of the New Testament.





Face Forward

21 04 2008

This is part of a synchroblog on http://www.emergingafrica.info/

I’m afraid that I threw this together rather hastily. It’s really just a few thoughts.

I think what we have to watch out for here is going backwards. The animist reindeer hunter on the Kamchatka Peninsula who thanks the reindeer for sacrificing his life so that the tribe can eat is on his way somewhere truthful. His myth is still serving him bits of truth.
But, if four generations from now, my decedents were thanking the roast chicken at Woolies for giving up it’s life so that they could have Sunday lunch that would be heresy.
Simply because my family would have gone backwards and would be on a backwards trend.

In the emergent heresies debate I don’t think there needs to be competition between myth and doctrine in our thinking. But that depends on what we mean by both ‘myth’ and ‘doctrine’. But I believe that there is doctrine that is myth.
There are 2 keys to this debate:
1. Doctrine is not Theology. Theology is what man thinks about God. Doctrine is what God reveals about Himself.
2. Some Myth is fact and all myth contains threads of absolute truth.

Paul’s advice to Timothy can be very helpful here. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:16)
I don’t think Paul is speaking here about Timothy’s theology or dogma, but he is speaking about something vitally important. We cannot simply take the stance that doctrine is whatever you happen to discover.

1 Timothy 4:7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.

2 Timothy 4:1-5In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

I think that Paul is encouraging Timothy to train himself, and others, not to abuse mythology. Mythology has a purpose, it is there to dream us towards the truth which, when we get their, will turn out to be much more of the same kind of thing, but we will be fully awake. The temptation of a myth is to mistake it for The Truth and stay sleeping. Myth functions as a road, not as a settler’s post. Many cultures have set up posts on the road and the temptation is to settle with them where the myth actually calls one to travel further.
In the first Timothy passage Paul’s encouragement to Timothy is to go forward personally, not to dead backwards down the road. The emphasis is not that godliness is un-mythical, but that godliness is further down the mythical road. It is truth where ‘old wives tales’ are merely pointing to the truth.
In the second Timothy case his charge to Paul is pastoral. And is is very similar to the charge in 1 Timothy.

One cannot have a heresy without a doctrine. But one can have doctrine without heresy.





The gender of The Creator?

19 04 2008

This is part of a synchroblog on http://www.emergingafrica.info/

The question is this: What would the Church look like if we were to refer to God exclusively in the feminine? Perhaps we should ask what the local church would look like.
Here are two stories that may help:

1. I heard of a man once who had really caught the principle of asking God for every day guidance. So much so that one morning he asked “What shirt shall I wear today Lord?” Apparently he had an instant word from God which brought him from the brink of silliness: God answered him, “I’m your father, not your mother”.
Now that may or may not have been God speaking, it may just as easily have been his own reason speaking sense to its owner – often, but not always, God and reason say the same thing.
When I heard that story I wondered what God’s response would have been if it was a woman asking the same question. I think His answer would have been very different; a lot more motherly (or perhaps sisterly), but it would not have been any less fatherly I think.
We must be careful not to ascribe human and created qualities onto God, they at best divine metaphors.
Arlyn put it exceptionally well: “I think that whenever something is established as a “base fact of eternal life,” care must be taken that we don’t come to put our faith in those base facts. After all, they’re merely rational constructs, and God is supposed to be ineffable, right? I mean (to sort-of quote a definition of theism) that anything we can think of about God is a limited and linear approximation of the inconceivable transcendence of God. Therefore, our ‘eternal base facts’ are merely the best we can do, but not actually the reality. In other words, when it comes to faith, they’re mirages that ought not to be confused with reality – which, practically speaking – is simply to approach oneness with God. And that’s an extremely mystical undertaking :-)”
In reality male and female will most likely be hopelessly inadequate to describe God when we finally see him. we think rightly of the Warrior Lover King as male, and the Generous Brooding Creator as female, but it is inadequate the other way round.

2. In my efforts to become more like a little child (which is something we are told is a prerequisite for entry into The Kingdom), and to answer this question as pastorally as possible, I asked my 10 year old if we should call God “He” or “She”. He said “God must be a man because the Church is His bride. If He was the bride that would just be funny.” [by funny I think he means either awkward or strange]
“Any other reason?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “the bible says God is a warrior and you don’t see girls going into battle and stabbing other men and chopping their heads off – charge, charge; Shing, Shing.” [the sound of swords clashing with appropriate actions]
Now one has to understand that my son is male, but I do think that you would get a similar response from girls his age – with a little more rolling of the eyes, more focus on the marriage, and a little less “Shing, Shing”.
(Half of me wishes he could stay little. When he was 3 he gave me the most profound understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity I have ever heard. “It’s easy to understand dad,” he said, “they are all just stuck together.” Brilliant.)

The focus of both these stories is on the necessary either/or understanding of God’s gender (which is much less of an issue even in English than in other European languages), and the denial of Him being neuter. I think this is an overriding truth of Christian identity.
The question is doctrinal, it is mystical but it is also sociological in the nuts and bolts if the local church. Imagine for a moment explaining to my son that he’s actually wrong. That God is as much a bride as a husband. Or, as the question demands that She’s not a husband at all, She is only a bride! Imagine explaining to him that She prefers to let us fight the battles because She is merely creative.
Besides trying to make sense of Jesus’ initiative and His hero status, imagine all the myths that we would have to do away with (not to mention the great movies). I cannot think of a child who be thoroughly confused by that kind of conversation with an adult she trusted. I would battle to think that I am not exposing them to some kind of horrid abuse. And we are only starting with Children; there is every age group and level of faith included in the local church.
Imaging explaining to a single mom that God does not actually take the role of her husband/dad being a, but more of a supportive mom.
Imagine explaining to a teen orphan that God is not actually a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) that God is more of a mother to the parentless.
Now we could argue that it is just social conditioning that needs to be rearranged. But then we immediately have moved from theology to psychology, and that is a worthy debate but not the current one. We could also argue that gender injustices of the past must be put right. But then, given that we have made this mistake in one direction, what is in place to stop equal injustices from happening in the other? A purely feminist society is no more just that a male dominant one, it certainly has not been in the past.
Being correct with the ‘bothness’ of God’s gender in our preaching and everyday speech is not even close to the importance of the either/or understanding of God’s gender for Christians. Especially for those who do not have the mental muscle and the robust faith to reach biblical conclusions without damaging their relationship with themselves, others and God. And, that being true, we must refer to God in the male gender, again my reasons are pastoral.

I remember watching puppies being born. The bitch watched, amazed as a dog can be at what she was producing. Her owner kept encouraging her as her offspring made their debut. She kept saying “You are such a clever girl!”
It was a sweet thing to say, and I must admit that I agree that the whole process is astoundingly clever, or more accurately it reveals an astounding cleverness. But the cleverness is not the dog’s. She is merely the vessel of cleverness, and I hate to admit it but humanity has as much claim on this cleverness as the dog does.

There is something gloriously mystical about gender, and as Envoy has pointed out, in doctrine, the mystical must lead, not the theological. I like Lewis’ take on the matter. We don’t deal with gender issues; gender issues deal with us.
From His essay ‘Priestesses in the Church’ (which I highly recommend for this debate):
“With the Church, we are farther in: for there we are dealing with male and female not merely as facts of nature but as the live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge. Or rather, we are not dealing with them but (as we shall soon learn if we meddle) they are dealing with us.”

That, I believe, is a foundation. The cleverness of the design does not rest with us because we are not the designer. We may become very skilled at using these instruments but we did not make them, and we ought to recognise that.
As brilliant a guitarist as he was it would have been wrong for Jimmy Hendrics to have taken credit for making either his guitars or his fingers. How then could he have insisted on their attributes?
Also foundational is this; that the skill in using gender instruments is a moral skill. Perhaps it would be better to call it a relational skill. One of the greatest evils in God’s Word is using gender skills immorally. Manipulation and Domination are probably the two worst immoral gender extremes.
Installing political correctness in God’s gender status is, I feel tantamount to claiming gender cleverness. I cannot see that it will in any way enhance church. I can only see it pulling the very fiber of church apart.
It was a great evil to use women as David did the Shunammite, and it only resulted in her further abuse by Adonijah (1 Kings 1) and the abuse of the whole society. But it was an equal evil for Solomon to allow himself to be influenced by the religions of his many wives. (Interesting to note that both faults rested with the men. It always takes an Ahab to allow a Jezebel, but it does not necessarily take a Jezebel to make an Ahab).

This is what I get from scripture:

1. I think that male is legitimised by female and vice versa. Neuter needs no legitimising, male and female do – conceptually and practically, physically and spiritually. God is not neuter, and it is our language, our logic, our observation and our future which demands that we think of Him and refer to Him as one or the other, and that our choice be male. At the same time I see no reason to insist theologically that God is male. In fact I see every reason not to insist this. equally I see no reason to insist that God is female.
Psalm 45 is probably the best place to start, it is my favourite wedding Psalm because it is as much male orientated as female. It is, as far as I can see, the only maskil that is also designated as a wedding Psalm (as the disciples were also designated apostles in Mark 3:14). And it makes the gospel message as accessible as Grimms fairy tails for both grannies and kids.

2. Christ is to the church as a husband is to his wife. Not the other way round.
The explanation in Ephesians is pretty clear. “You thought I was speaking about a man and his wife… no no, I’m speaking about The Great Myth – Christ and His Church. Make sure you follow this perfect example.” (paraphrase Ephe 5:31-33).

3. I think it is significant that not one of the 12 was a woman and that it was a woman, not any of the 12, who had the privilege of seeing Jesus first after His resurrection and carrying the happy news and delivering it to the disciples.
She carried the shortest, least painful (perhaps), and most joyous pregnancy ever. Jesus could have easily appeared to John – he got there first (well not really, that title also belongs to a woman), or to Peter – he went in first.
In every way this function had to be carried out by a woman in the same way as the function of the 12 had to be carried out by men.
Maleness is a backdrop for femaleness and vice versa. This is an essential fact woven into the family fabric of Church and to unweave it is to unweave church and the possibility of future salvations.

I don’t think injustices of the past are enough reason to discard references to God in the male gender. Perhaps what would be consequential (maybe unavoidable) to this discussion would be to address male leadership in the local church.