Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ash wednesday

ashen cross smudged on the skin 
an ancient sign of utter repentance 
shaped for one who was broken, 
faithful, even repentant for us

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Mystery of God Revealed

Often it seems like Christians facing a perceived dilemma between faith and reason either retreat too quickly into mystery or advance too assuredly into proofs. The phrase "faith seeking understanding" can be a helpful reminder here if we note the importance of each word of the phrase. Also very helpful is Tom Greggs' excellent treatment of Bonhoeffer and Barth in Theology Against Religion (pages 218-221, emphases added):
The Transfiguration of Jesus
[Too often the mystery of God] can become a mystery which arises from ignorance, and the boundaries of human knowledge which remain unanswered. Such was Bonhoeffer's condemnation of a form of mystery in which '[r]eligious people speak of God where human knowledge is at an end (or sometimes when they're too lazy to think further), or when human strength fails'. 
In this kind of mystery ... the God of the Bible is replaced by the human creation of an increasingly superfluous deus ex machina. Human progress in knowledge determines that the space in which so-called 'God' is allowed is rapidly reduced: answering questions of which we are ignorant of the answer, even seemingly ultimate ones, by pointing to a 'God' who fills gaps in our knowledge is no longer possible....
[I]n contrast to this mystery born of ignorance, Bonhoeffer points to the unutterability of God's name within his prison writings. In this discussion, we may find an appropriate form of mystery befitting the very Godness of God. To reclaim this otherness of the God is to begin to move away form a sense that God can ever be captured within the confines of a religion. A theology against religion needs, therefore, to reclaim a true and appropriate doctrine of the mystery of God....
Given that Barth wrote so much, and often did so in such a forthright tone, it might seem surprising that the theme of mystery is pervasive throughout his work. However, Barth constantly affirms the mystery of God throughout Church Dogmatics. For him, crucially, mystery is not an attempt at filling holes that exist in human knowledge; mystery, instead, arises from faith and revelation, rather than from unbelief and ignorance... For him, mystery does not precede revelation; it follows from it.... 
St. Augustine puts this positively when he speaks of the God not in terms of the darkness of unknowing, but in terms of the one who is so gloriously mysterious that His 'ineffable light beat back our gaze'. The blindingly bright revelation of God is the revelation of the God who makes himself known as the one who is beyond all human comprehension.

Read that last sentence again. Christians believe that God has not remained unknown, but made Godself known as such in Christ. A mystery solved is no longer a mystery. A mystery that boils down to ignorance is just a statement about ourselves. To be unaware of a mystery is not to have one. As Greggs writes: 'It is faith which enables humans to have the knowledge of God's mystery.'

* Bonhoeffer quote from Letters and Papers from Prison, 366.
* Augustine quote from De Trinitate, 15.10.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Thirty Sevens

When this blog was more active I used to add a favourite to my film, book and music lists each year around my birthday--kind of as a tip of the hat or a thank you for those that have been my closest artistic companions. Well, I'm still here, and even though I'm a few months late I thought I'd make my thirty-seventh additions.


This is kind of a no-brainer. In 2011 I pitched a paper for AAR about True Grit, simply because I liked it so much. As I researched and wrote about it, however, I came to like and absorb this wonderful story even more. I am seeking to have my paper published, and so recently took the time to watch the Coen brother's film and peruse Charles Portis' novel again. It really is fantastic. Nearly perfect cinema, and a snappy, nearly perfect little novel. This one's just gonna stick with me. Enough said. (Okay that's not entirely true).


Just picked up Michael Chabon's "Manhood for Amateurs" for $2 at a Book Bargain Bin while on retreat in Kelowna this winter. It is one of the most enjoyable reads I can remember in a long time.

The writing is magnificent. As autobiographical reflection it is witty and poignant; as social commentary it is resonant and illuminating. There were chapters I would close and look around for a chance to read it again aloud. It really is a delightful book.

And that cover says it all.


Bon Iver's Grammy winning self-titled album was regular mood-setting background music for the writing of massive sections of my thesis.

It is epic, textured, light, and deep.

Makes me imagine I'm under a jungle canopy or looking up at the sun from under water or crunching in the snow on my way to a nearby fire.

Or  something like that.

You can see the remainder of my lists at the tab pages above.