procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

arguing for aesthetics

when i look at the world, fickle as i am, i'm able to see beauty in many places.

  • Max Weber sat in a skyscraper, looking down at the goings-on in a city, and was awe-struck.
  • in seeing the film angels and insects i now recognise the appropriate fascination we can have with the insect kingdoms.
  • the subtitle of Dr Strangelove was How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and the testimony of many who have had the honour to witness the detonation of an atomic bomb, is that it is indeed awe-inspiring.
  • the Grand Canyon (depending on who you believe) may have been the result of the erosion of a massive lake.
  • the landscape of lebanon is astounding in its sparseness (even though the cedars are no more)
  • the growth of a tumor, seen in time-lapse photography, is also a beautiful thing.

there is a short story by Herman Hesse (from which i hope to post at some stage) which explains how, even when dying, mostly due to the effects of this fallen world, we can still see immense beauty.

whether this is due to:
  1. / there being inherent beauty in these things, despite many of them being a result of the fall
  2. 2/ us being created with the ability to see good in all things, as God is sovereign over all and his good flows over into all things
  3. 3/ our fallen nature meaning that we are able to see good in what God calls ugly

i've been swinging between the three, but would be interested in your thoughts.

particularly check out byron's blog, particularly the comments.
also see my previous thoughts on aesthetics

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Monday, February 26, 2007


on sunday it was mark's turn. as previously intimated, he took us thru what the bible has to say about sin.

personally the hardest thing was working out the paradox between total and utter depravity. that is to say, all of us are infected with the curse, in many ways like one bit of yeast affects the whole loaf. (c/f Romans 7:18)
this therefore implies that anything we do is tainted by sin. that would explain why isaiah claims all his works to be but filthy rags (64:6). but, being dead to sin, clothed in Christ's righteousness, are we therefore unable to do nothing that could be described as good, that is free from that curse, as, after all, we are created in our good God's good image, who sends his rain on both the righteous and the wicked.

the answer, it seems, is no, there is naught you can do untainted by sin. AND yes, as you died with Christ, we now walk in newness of life.

the struggle to synergise this seeming antinomy would explain the negative press John Piper received (for saying John Piper doesn't just do bad things. John Piper is bad.), as well as the papist finger-wagging at Luther's encouragement to a friend (to sin boldly).

now if someone could just explain the seeming monergism of judgement i see in Romans 1-2 (particularly the pattern explicit in 2:6-11 mirroring that in 1:18-31) i could move on...

i'm looking forward to the next WaSaBI on the Cross (and what it has to do with eschatology).

stay tuned...

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mini earth

you may have read this before, worked it out before, or perhaps never even thought about it before, BUT here is a flash-vid version of what the world would be like, represented as only 100 people.
i guess that's more sexy than just talking about boring percentages.

it's a great reminder to be thankful for what we have, and an encouragement to take the opportunity we've been given to use our wealth to help others.
it's also a great rebuke to individualism. i reckon.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

vote #1 hillsong?

a photo from o-week at UNSW.
by choice or by design, that is the question.

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this fleeting man

"Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble."

This would be a great opening sentence for a great novel, a chorus for a song, or opening line in a poem.

In fact, it comes from the mouth of Job (14:1), a man plagued by illness and all types of misfortune, questioning his place in eternity, the meaning of life, and where he stands before the Almighty God.

There is great synchronicity between Job's thinking (esp ch14) and that of the writer of Ecclesiastes:

  • our life is fleeting in the scale of things
  • seeking meaning often results in a belly-full of wind
  • we cannot hope to comprehend anything that lasts for eternity (well, an aion) (let alone anything that lasts more than a lifetime!)
  • we are just the same as the animals in our origins and destinations - ie, dust! - even the plants can claim some superiority over us: Job 14:7-10;

For there is hope for a tree,
if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that its shoots will not cease.
Though its roots grow old in the earth,
and its stump die in the soil;
Yet at the scent of water it will bud,
and put out branches like a young plant.
But man dies, and is laid low;
Man breathes his last, and where is he?

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Friday, February 16, 2007

sun-work does not equal son-work

my continuing thinking through of eschatology has brought me back to the frustrating area of teleology.
for the uninitiated, eschatos = the end, telos = the end. eschatos being the point in time, telos being the goal, the aim, the purpose.
as i have previously considered here, it may well be that the end of man (telos) is indeed the end (finish) of man. a look at the world today, especially at the doomsday clock can but confirm this.

thankfully, however, this is not my task.
i am still trying to figure out how to make sense of the seeming futility of today, with nothing new under the sun, and all that we do is simply trying to grasp the wind; whilst knowing that there is indeed purpose in our lives, there is a goal, that being to seek God and his glory.

yet, despite all this, we are still hopelessly impotent in our striving, as byron's blog so well states, that all is new only in the son. but, whilst being in the son, we still are under the sun.

i believe that is what peter is trying to make clear as he holds up the two truths of being subject to the emperor, whilst retaining their true identity as the very building blocks of Christ's church, the oikos.

one of the problems i see is this pedestal some climb upon, maintaining their particular work, under the sun, has some kind of überwert, super-spiritualising their own work in and of itself. that includes summing up ecclesiastes 1:12-2:26 as "work done using worldly wisdom bad, Godly good." rather than the way the author sums up, that all work is vanity and a striving after wind.

we are headed for the same goal. the reality of the eschaton means all our sun-work is vain.
    2Peter3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

that is to say, even our sun-work will be exposed for what it is. and it will be in no way different to the sun-work of those not under the son.

in conclusion, sun-work is not our goal. bearing in mind peter's correction, we need to remember why we are to keep-on keeping on.

for those now thorougly depressed, this is not to say there is no work of worth, that is simply not current focus.
apologies to byron for use of his bookends.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Jury Duty

man, like, you know, being picked for jury duty is such a drag. like, i wanna do it and all, but they make you do it at the worst possible time in the world.
i sent in the thing to try and get out, coz i'm running O-Day, which is on wednesday. i sent in my form and they told me to get knicked, and i had to come.
so i rang up sunday like they told me, the message said they don't need me monday, maybe tuesday. ring back monday night.
i'm happy to plead my case with them in person, but if they delay me again, i physically won't be able to go! very frustrating.

i do believe in being an active and vocal participant in society, they just make it pretty tough! what if we had to fill in a form every year, telling them the 4 weeks we definitely CANNOT do jury duty. at least that would give some allowance for the difficulty of just popping out to help out, for four-straight weeks!
furthermore, it would put it on the public conscience, realising that they are part of this society, they should actually give a hoot about what goes on in the courts and the government.

i watched the film 12 Angry Men (for a bit of homework!), where (look away if you don't want to know what happens) 11 of the jury are happy to convict the fellow, to a large degree just coz they wanna go home. the lone ranger (henry fonda), sticking to his principles, says no, he's innocent. they spend the better part of the night then discussing and being convinced he was indeed innocent, just because of the one bloke standing up for what he believed.

unfortunately that doesn't sound much like reality - i hear there are many hung juries, where people just can't agree so they give up. i have also heard of instances of people changing their mind due the pressure of being the lone nay-sayer.
neither of these examples give me much hope in the jury system.

the proposition of "majority rules" sounds ludicrous - i'm not sure if it got passed in the end, but am sure it would not solve the endemic apathy we see in this country.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007


well, WSBI has begun! incarnate as WaSaBI, the first week: last week, was well attended and was quite encouraging.

the topic was Sanctification, and much to our collective amazement, it seems the picture the Bible paints is one of positional sanctification. this means that Sanctification (in essence, becoming more like Jesus), is something that has been done: in God's eyes we are sanctified, as well as being justified (declared right).
so it's not just that because we have been justified, we are now acceptable to God, and therefore over time we will become more like Jesus, or more sanctified - rather, our identity as Christians is now one of being positionally sanctified, as it says in 1Peter2:9,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

as for style, it was a bit more MYCesque, more group work, whereas i was thinking more along the lines of a talk, followed by some small group stuff. but the presenter did an admirable job.

so the 2nd one kicks off in a fortnight, with the hopefully juicy topic of sin. John Macarthur (not Mark Driscoll as i previously believed) said that, 'If I had one hour to tell somebody the
gospel, I'd spend 55 minutes on sin, five minutes on everything else.'

will keep you posted...

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

something worse than abortion

the untouchables series at church have been interesting and engaging, to say the least. they were on racism, homosexuality, abortion and church and state. a step away from the week-to-week exegetical preaching we're used to, the topical talks have been a good point for engagement with the community.

the angle that wasn't looked at, at least explicitly, was from the perspective of retrieval ethic. mainly associated with (i think) Reinhold Niebuhr (but also Michael Hill of Moore College), it's looking at questions that would, should be open and shut, were we living in a perfect world.

but since we aren't, questions such as "war", are actually not as simple as "war's bad", because, using the paradigm of the retrieval ethic, there may be "worse things than war", such as (to use the Niebuhr example) Hitler ruling the world! that is not to say there should be no boundaries, no rules of engagement, no limits - but that pacifism isn't necessarily the answer, as so many who quote John 18:36 may claim:
    Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

likewise, i think the same may apply to the question of abortion. we see the "right to lifers" coming to blows with the "pro-choicers", in much the same way as pacifists come at the warmongers.

it's not about the 3rd way or the middle path; rather accepting doing the best we can in this fallen world to be compassionate, merciful and just, recognising that we are under God.

anything we can therefore do is not going to reverse the curse, nor should that be in our minds.

    1 Chronicles 29:11-12 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.
    Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

arguing from aesthetics

some apologists would try and argue the existence of God from aesthetics.
'how can you say there is no God, when you look at this beautiful photo?!'
some more cynical types would say that that is a stupid argument.
'there's a beautiful photo. why bring God into it?'
c.s. lewis is one apologist who argues from the premise of longing: we all long for something more, there must be something more. as the writer of ecclesiastes said: God has put eternity into the hearts of men (or something like that) (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ).

i think, when one surveys the unquestionable beauty on this earth, one has two choices.
  1. look beyond. in the same way as a signpost points you beyond that point, to consider the enormity of the universe, the complexity, even the simplicity, and, if appropriate, whatever/whoever created the whole scene.
  2. look at yourself. the reflection in the water, of so great a mountain, should remind us of our own reflection. who we are, where we fit, the impossibilty, or design, of your playing a role within eternity.

but aesthetics, as an apologetic for theism, on the way to Christianity, can be only a halfway house on the way to a halfway house. without the full host of where creation fits in to God's plan for salvation, this is ahollow argument.

(although i do believe a brief faustian world tour of contrasts - showing both the beauty and the depravity of creation, both the purpose and the corruption, may well be a valid use of aesthetics as an apologetic)

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