Monday, January 31, 2005

My Linus Confession

We watched Garden State this weekend. (No, that's not the confession.)
Here's an excerpt:

Sam: This is Tickle.
Andrew: What is Tickle?
Sam: Tickle is my favorite thing in the whole world. It's all that's left of Nanny, my blanket.
Andrew: Tickle is all that remains. Was there a hurricane or something?
Sam: Shut up!

As we watched the above scene, I went over to a chair, picked up a small pillow and started unzipping it. Gaines most likely thought I was going crazy. Inside was a small garment bag stuffed with a ratty, degraded, ancient mass of cotton bunting. My "hole-y blanket," my parents and I used to call it.

Friday night, I connected so strongly with that scene in Garden State that I needed to pull the thing out again. It smelled like stale pillowcases. Slowly rotting away. It's 24 years old, after all. Now, stuffing for a pillow is all that's left of "Blankie." (I was real original in my naming. My black schnauzer "Midnight" still lives with my parents.)

I've had it ever since I can remember-- ever since I was brought home from the hospital at three months old, most likely. I know I used to carry it around with me everywhere, like Linus and his blue patch of security. Once, when I was about three or four, I had an imaginary friend -- a dog. One day, she had invisible puppies, and when they were born in the laundry room hamper I wrapped them up in my "blankie" to keep them warm.

I remember telling my mom when I was little that I would "take my blankie with me to college." Well, I did. Stuffed it into one of my grandmother's pink satin pillowcases. Soon after it arrived in my dorm room, I started keeping it in a garmet bag, as well, to keep it from falling apart any further. Back then, you could still see faint traces of the yellow ducks that were dyed into the satin covering of the blanket. All that's left now, however, are the insides. Rough, starched, grayish instead of white.

During college, I soon realized I needed some way to take it with me that wasn't so...obvious. So I found a small tapestry pillowcase my teacher had given me from our high school trip to France-- part of a reproduction of a woven decoration on a royal wall somewhere, I suppose. Fitting, I thought. Inconspicuous, too: only six by six inches, if that. And so I kept my secret safe. Hidden away in plain sight. From college, it traveled with me to our apartment in Atlanta after we were married.

I don't think I'd ever told Gaines I still had remnants of my security blanket in the apartment. I'd almost forgotten myself. It took Natalie Portman's fictional confession to reveal my own. It wasn't until I tugged it free from it's alias as a decorative pillow that I realized I just didn't need to hide it anymore. I don't need a talisman to keep me safe. But it is nice to pull it out every once in a while to remind me why I carried it around in the first place. To poke my head through the middle, pretend those tattered remains are a princess' robe, and discover I'm the ruler of an enchanted kingdom or perhaps a famous detective with a magic invisibility cloak. Some days, I just want to be that kid again, tottering around the house dragging the remnants of childhood enmeshed in worn satin yellow ducks, full of confidence and free from the worries of life.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Snow Day!

Well, it's really more of an "ice" day. Not quite enough cover to even make a snowball. But is sure is pretty!

We don't get many of these in Atlanta, so the whole city basically shuts down. And today, the freezing rain just keeps coming, so even if the roads do get salted, they just ice right over again. Looks like we're stuck indoors. Darn! Too bad it's on a Saturday rather than a workday.

Usually, though, we'd be doing a million things anyway-- running between meetings, Kids Club, driving to Slope's for lunch, hosting an afternoon CARES Team event-- but today, we're staying inside near a roaring fire and watching episodes from Season 2 of Alias along with some of the movies we've gotten recently from the Blockbuster deal through We think Fargo is a fitting choice to watch next.

We do pray everyone in the path of the icy weather is safe at home as well.
Happy snow day, y'all!

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Passion

Contrary to the claims of vocal Christian activitists, I fail to see how the Oscar nominations are clear evidence of a blatant and evil Hollywood conspiracy to shut-out "Christian art." I mean, pretty much every year the Academy makes some crazy/unexpected picks and tends to like stuff that doesn't always overlap with what did well at the Box Office. Granted, like in most years, I haven't seen many of the nominated films. But I don't know if any of the conspiracy-mongers have seen them, either.
"Two slightly distorted guitars"

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Now showing

Preview clips from the forthcoming DVD from the 2005 Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference are now available for viewing. Looks pretty good! (And the clip selections are tasty!)

(Click here and check the lower right for download options.)


I just got an e-mail (addressed to me alone) from the guy in the cubicle next to mine. I could hear him typing it. I don't know whether this is any better or worse than a former co-worker who used to telephone me from the cubicle next to mine.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Startling revelations

So, sometimes I'm a little slow.

Ed Young, Jr. is a pastor and radio/tv personality and, honestly, one of whom I am not terribly fond. I've been hearing his show on the radio, spotting him on tv, and being terribly unfond of him for several years. But only in the last couple of days did I make the connection that his younger brother is Cliff Young, lead singer of Caedmon's Call.

Even more startling: I just found out that the Pee Wee Herman-esque voice of the alien spaceship in the classic 80's kid movie Flight of the Navigator was actually performed by Paul Reubens -- aka Pee Wee Herman.

Man, I'm slow.
This may be painfully obvious to many, but I had somewhat of a revelation concerning the state of worship in Evangelical churches in America. It seems that the worship in many churches is negatively impacted by a sharp contrast between the identity of the church as a body of believers and the body's purpose of weekly (or more often) assembling for corporate worship. Obviously, there is a distinction, because the church is not a building, a steeple, a program, a service, etc (insert cliche here). But it seems that far too many Christians have divorced the role of weekly corporate assembling from their view of what "church" is. For many, the "real life" of the church is found in bible study groups, fellowship meetings, etc occurring throughout the week. And make no mistake, these activities are vital to the health and growth of the local body. But it seems that the prime and unifying purpose of the whole church should be to assemble on the Lord's Day to worship. The identity of the body is defined by both its composition and its purpose. When the two are torn asunder, the worship of the church suffers.

(I could speculate on the many reasons for this rending, and I'd probably use the word "gnostic" with some frequency. But that will have to wait.)

Friday, January 21, 2005

In anticipation of the Atlanta - Philadelphia game on Sunday, the local classic rock channel is having a "No Eagles Weekend." Clever, but I'm concerned -- how are they going to fill the gaping holes in their playlists?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Rabbi Saul has posted pictures from the dinner with Bishop Wright at the AAPC earlier this month. See if you can spot Team Redd!

(Also, it appears that some kind of hovering orb of energy made it into a couple of the pics. Fortunately, we were not injured in any way.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Sich Schützen Und Dienen

I saw this on the rear bumper of a Doraville Police Department squad car on the way home tonight. Granted, our neighborhood is a very multi-cultural part of the metro Atlanta area, but I still thought it was kind of odd.

(FYI: If you weren't sure, the above is German for "To Protect and Serve")
Team Redd has officially jumped on the free iPod bandwagon. Please help us fulfill our dreams of having a quality portable mp3 player at a low (i.e., none) cost.

Plus, you, too, can get in on the action and start down your own path towards free electronics. Just click the link!

(The Blockbuster deal looks decent enough to try for a month, but there are plenty of other offers to be tried, as well.)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

AAPC - 3

Day two of the conference was a marathon of lectures -- three from each speaker, as well as two Q&A sessions. It was like drinking from the proverbial theology firehose.

Wright's set of Tuesday lectures tackled the "Essential Structure and Framework of Pauline Theology." His contention was that Reformed systematizers have often failed to integrate sufficiently Paul's Jewish background into their theological constructs. To address this, his lectures dealt with the Jewish concepts of monotheism ("God"), election ("God's people") and eschatology ("the future of God's people"); furthermore, he examined how Paul's theology is built upon these three foundations, as reconstituted around Jesus the Messiah.

Related to this three-fold framework, Wright proposed an additional three strands running through Paul's writings: 1) Paul re-reads Israel's Scriptures in light of Christ, over and against readings popular within the Second Temple period; 2) Paul's main polemical target is not Judaism, but paganism -- the Gospel is the reality of which paganism is the parody, and Paul's arguments against Judaism are at the precise points where it apes bits of paganism; and 3) Paul's main task in writing his epistles is to build up the Church.


The first lecture addressed monotheism. Wright noted that the use of the term "god" can be quite misleading, as there are numerous competing definitions. "Monotheism" isn't much clearer, either. The pantheistic view, for example, is technically a monotheistic one, since everything is god, and there's only one everything. "Monotheism" could also describe Deism or some strands of Epicurean thought, where god is detached, aloof, and generally unconcerned with the affairs of men. Jewish belief, by contrast, held to a creational and covenantal monotheism, where Yahweh is sovereign and is in an intimate relationship with His creation. This immediately raises the age-old problem of evil, which is not a problem at all for pantheism (if everything is god, then "evil" is a meaningless concept) or Epicureanism (since god is so far removed from creation, we should expect nothing but evil). The "problem of evil" is only a problem for the type of covenantal monotheism espoused by Jewish belief. However, the God of the Old Testament has promised to undo the effects of evil. Evil, in Jewish views, is usually linked to idolatry, which results in the idolator losing his/her genuine humanity. Sin is "missing the mark" of being genuinely human as God intended. Sin is closely linked to the Biblical themes of exile and restoration, beginning all the way back with the expulsion from the Garden after the Fall. The story of redemption is ultimately the story of restoration back to the Garden.

Wright argued that Second Temple Judaism had already developed many ways in which to talk about the interaction between God and His world, such as the categories of Word, Spirit, Shekinah (the glory cloud), Wisdom and Torah. None of these were seen as challenges to Jewish monotheism. As Wright has stated elsewhere, Jewish monotheism was more concerned with setting Israel's God apart from pagan gods than it was concerned with speculating on the inner workings of that God. Paul builds upon this fact by affirming the one-ness of Israel's God yet redefining Him around Jesus. Wright notes that the Apostle cites Old Testament passages referring to Torah and applies them to Jesus. Paul also refers to Jesus as "Lord" (Greek kyrios) using OT passages that employ the same word (in the LXX) to refer to Yahweh. In I Corinthians 8, Paul adapts the Jewish shema ("Hear O Israel, the LORD your God, the LORD is one") to apply to Jesus. In these and many more instances, Paul takes standard Jewish manners of speaking about Yahweh and applies them directly to Jesus. Wright argues that the Jews understood the title "Son of God" to refer to either Israel or the Messiah. Paul weaves this aspect together with the idea that God would deal with the problem of evil in person. The cross is where God addresses evil head-on, and in it God's covenant faithfulness to his creation is revealed.

Wright also highlighted how Paul's teaching on the Spirit corresponds with monotheistic beliefs. In the past, Israel was under the bondage of Torah, her tutor, but now God has sent the Spirit to free His people, similar to the Exodus. Wright sees the Spirit functioning for Paul in the place of the Shekinah, leading God's people in a new Exodus. Christians are to be agents of God's restoration of the cosmos, and they are empowered by the Spirit to do what the Torah could not. Wright stated that the Spirit works through the Gospel and the Word, noting that God's "Word" is often an agent of new creation in the Old Testament.

Thus, the Jewish belief in monotheism has been recast around Jesus, and also around the Spirit.

[As an aside, during the lecture Wright explicitly affirmed the Pauline authorship of Ephesians, to address the persisting-yet-oft-refuted charges that he denies the traditional Apostolic authorship.]


In his second lecture of the day, Wright turned to the Jewish view of election and how it informed Paul's view of the people of God and consequently played out in the Apostle's nurturing of the community of faith. From the outset, Wright affirmed that there were many variations on the main theme of "Judaism" during the Second Temple Period; however, the presence of competing views gives us no reason to return to anachronistic understandings. At its core, Jews understood Israel as being chosen graciously by God's love, not for anything inherent to themselves, to answer the problem of evil. However, the ones chosen to address the problem quickly became part of the problem. In Paul's day, Jews were divided over whether the Messiah would resolve the problem A) by smashing the wicked nations or B) by first blessing Israel and then the nations. When God fulfilled His plans for Israel, the Gentiles would be brought into the picture -- somehow. Paul reaffirms this concept of Israel's election even as he redefines it.

Referring to Galatians 2:11-21, Wright posits that Peter's actions imply that Gentiles must become ethnic Jews before being admitted to full status within the Church. Paul, however, argues that Jews and Gentiles are on equal footing. Because of this context, Wright argues that Pauline "justification" is not about becoming a Christian but, rather, about telling who is Christian. The "works of Torah" are, for Wright, not salvation-earning, but instead demarcate who is included within the family of God. Paul redefines these family boundaries around the crucified Messiah instead of Torah. Anticipating the uneasiness of many about this view of justification language, Wright then affirmed that Messiah represents His people, so that "what is true of Him is true of them." "Justification by faith" is then couched in terms of who belongs to the one undivided people of God. The "Israel of God" in Galatians 6:16 refers to this redefined family of God in Christ. Within this framework, the concerns about Paul stating "if righteousness came by Torah, then Christ died in vain" quickly shift from that of an individual trying to earn salvation by perfectly keeping the Law to that of whether the people of God truly are one in Christ. That is, if Torah is still what marks out the "righteous", the covenant people of God, then God's people is still limited, in reality, to a single ethnic group (whether natural-born or proselyte).

Obviously, the fact remains that national Israel was unfaithful to her vocation to be God's agent in restoring the world. However, God will remain faithful to His purposes in election despite Israel's failure. Christ represents His people and perfectly fulfills her intended vocation. Again, justification then becomes a subset of election, because it denotes who exactly are the people that Christ represents. However, Wright rejected the notion that this view of justification relegates soteriology to being a mere subset of ecclesiology, which is generally seen as a lower-tier area of theology anyway. (Wright lamented how many systematic theologies and commentaries gloss over "ecclesiology" towards the end, after spending most of their energy on the "more exciting" issues, like soteriology.) On the contrary, the unity of the new Jew/Gentile body is a powerful testimony to Christ's victory over the powers of the world. By the Spirit, those in Messiah are God's true human race being put back together again. The people of God are a result of God's future new creation being implemented in the present. Justification is a part of a much larger covental theology, incorporating "ecclesiology," soteriology, and many other aspects.


Wright's final lecture of the day, "Re-imagining God's Future," addressed the issue of Paul's eschatology. Jewish eschatology is rooted in a reversal of the Fall in Genesis 3, and Paul adapted the theme of expulsion/exile and restoration around the death and resurrection of Jesus. Returning to the exile theme, Wright notes that Daniel 9 gives a timetable for when the return from exile should be expected. The Apostolic message is that the complex of events in Jewish future hope actually came to pass in Jesus. "What Israel expected God to do for His people at the end of time, God did for Jesus in the middle of time." The resurrection of Jesus, a foretaste of the final resurrection, demonstrates that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. The kingdom motif is established around Jesus, who has defeated the nations and powers of the world. Wright notes how the Messianic Psalms about Messiah's victory are employed to describe Jesus. Furthermore, if Jesus is the Passover Lamb, Wright argues that the leading of the Spirit in Romans 6-8 can be seen as a new exodus (as referenced in the previous lecture).

Wright cautioned against "rapture" eschatologies that, he claimed, quickly devolve into dualism. "The Day of the Lord" in Scripture is not about the end of the world, but about a moment of God's judgement. At one point, Wright quipped that if the "day of the Lord" mentioned by Paul in 2 Thessalonians really was about doomsday, Paul wouldn't need to write to let his readers know whether it had or hadn't yet come to pass. (They would probably have noticed that sort of thing.) Rather, this language refers to a great act of judgement, such as the devastations of 70 AD, which Wright quickly affirmed was not the only or last such "day." He explained that the language of parousia was typically employed to denote the visit of a great king or a victorious general. When applied to Jesus, this does not necessarily refer to a long journey from far away. Nor does it mean that Jesus' appearance will result in the faithful being snatched away. Rather, Paul employs the language of colonization -- Christians are colonies of God's renewed humanity, whose job is to cultivate and spread the culture of heaven until Jesus returns. Through Messiah, all creation will be renewed, now in part but in full at His coming. The Spirit is a downpayment of the new creation that is to come. As Wright states, the Torah was given to regulate the present evil world; however, because Christians have already been delivered from that, Christian "ethics" is empowered by the Spirit and is about living now in God's new age.

(Note: There was much more involved with these lectures, but the notes seemed to have dwindled as the day went on. The reader should note that the final Wright lecture of the day was attended after stuffing myself with some tasty dinner at Bubba Luigi's.)

(Another Note: I am familiar with much of this material due to Wright's frequent usage in his works. So, despite my spotty notes, I was able to reconstruct a fair amount. I am not anticipating similar results with Dr. Gaffin's lectures, again, due to my unfamiliarity with his work. For a much more detailed look, please be sure to check out Rabbi Saul's blog, as he is steadily uploading his in-depth coverage of the conference.)

Ay Carumba!

Spanish 'Simpsons' in labor dispute
"You get to the point where you care deeply for your cartoon character," [Nancy] Mackenzie [Spanish voice of Marge Simpson] said. "You love them. You go to bed with them at night. It's a sad state, and not because of the money. It's for love."

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

You All Everybody!

I think it's cool (or can be) when TV/movie directors and producers throw in allusions/homages to previous works. Like in Coming to America, when we see the two (now bankrupt) Duke Brothers from Trading Places out on the street. Or when guys like Chris Carter and Christopher Guest keep using the same character actors in their shows/films.

It's even better when it's subtle. Tonight on Alias, there was a party scene where the faint background music was a song by Drive Shaft, the fake band from J.J. Abrams' other hit show, Lost. Smooth.

(Don't) Share the Well?

During our recent travels, Allison and I were listening to Share the Well by Caedmon's Call, and we wondered how the Dalits have been affected by the tsunami and subsequent relief efforts. (For those unfamiliar with the Dalits, they are the "untouchable" caste in India. Caedmon's Call is working with organizations like the Dalit Freedom Network to raise awareness of their plight and the inhumane treatment they often face. Many of the songs on Share the Well directly address this issue.)

As this newspaper article shows, some things remain unchanged amidst the devastation.

Tsunami can’t wash this away: hatred for Dalits

Sadly, this story isn't getting much attention. If you are still looking for a means by which you can help tsunami relief, donating to the Dalit Freedom Network is a good way to make sure aid gets to those who need it, especially those who might otherwise be hindered by ancient prejudices and hatred.

This would be interesting

N.T. Wright and Dominic Crossan debate the Resurrection

Unfortunately, I don't think I can squeeze in another trip to Lousiana anytime soon.

Oh man

Today is Team Redd's first Blogiversary, and I totally forgot to send flowers!

I am in so much trouble ...

Monday, January 10, 2005

AAPC - 2

Going into the AAPC, I had read and listened to a decent amount of N.T. Wright's material. I was far less familiar with the work of Dr. Richard Gaffin, distinguished professor at Westminster Seminary, so I'll need to obtain our copies of his conference lectures to fill in my spotty notes. As several have observed, there was a marked contrast between the two men's lecturing styles. Gaffin was not nearly as polished or animated as Bishop Wright. But this doesn't mean that he was a bad speaker, by any stretch. He very clearly had command of the material he was presenting, and his lecturing was often punctuated with a dab or two of dry humor. I concur with Doug Wilson's assessment of Gaffin's methodical approach and patient establishing of groundwork. I must confess that I initially wondered where he was going, but by the final lectures, it was apparent that all of Gaffin's foundational work was necessary to converge into some really cool stuff. I would be interested to see Gaffin in action in the classroom, with a whole semester at his disposal to lay foundations and then build magnificently upon them.

A few initial considerations from his opening lecture:

Gaffin stressed the need to see canonical literature as the controlling context for interpreting Paul. In retrospect, it would have been interesting to see him interact directly with Wright's copious use of non-canonical literature to establish the social and cultural context within which Paul wrote.

Gaffin noted that the problem of interpreting Paul is not a new one, citing the Apostle Peter's own comments in his second epistle about the difficulty of understanding him. He noted that these difficulties are inherent to the deeper content of Paul's writings. Yet, he also noted the fact of Paul's writing within specific contexts of personal relationships and situations. Gaffin (in agreement with Wright) observed that Paul's theology in his letters is non-formalized, precisely because he is addressing specific situations. He compared the apostle's writings to the visible portion of an iceberg, having much more below the surface than is apparent to the observer. Nevertheless, Gaffin stressed that we must not exaggerate the difficulty of interpreting Paul, either, for many of Paul's core concerns are clearly expressed.

Studies of Paul as theologian must be undertaken carefully. On the one hand, we cannot simply compare Paul the theologian to any other theologian, because of the uniqueness of his apostolic vocation. Gaffin notes that whereas our theologizing is Spirit-led, Paul's was Spirit-born. On the other hand, we are still at the same point in redemptive history as Paul -- looking back at the resurrection and anxiously awaiting the Lord's return.

Gaffin then discussed the interplay between Biblical and Systematic theology. He cautioned that systematics should be non-speculative. The hard work of exegesis informs systematizing. Additionally, Paul theology must be determined alongside the rest of the canon.

Dr. Gaffin then addressed his main question for his lectures: does Paul's theology have in mind an ordo salutis -- that is, in the general sense, does Paul concentrate on the ongoing application of redemption to individuals? Or does Paul focus on the history of salvation, with redemption seen in terms of something accomplished once for all (i.e., historia salutis)? Gaffin explained that Paul's emphasis on exercising faith in the present indicates a clear notion of an ordo. He introduced the theme of walking "by faith and not by sight" (a la 2 Corinthians 5:7), which would serve to link the redemption decisively accomplished by the crucifixion and resurrection with the application of that redemption to the believer. This theme would help shape and inform his remaining lectures.

As an aside, Gaffin closed his session with a remark about "Auburn fans," ostensibly referring to the Sugar Bowl being played that night -- though certainly with a double meaning, given the surroundings.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Hey! It's "Starry Night"!

Well, actually, no. It's not.

Today we overheard a lady mistake "Café Terrace at Night" for the most well-known of Van Gogh's contributions to the art world. The painting below is, however, the first of his works to include a sparkling night sky. And it is also one of my favorite impressionist paintings. A poster of the mostly blue and yellow simulacrum hung on my bedroom wall all throughout college.

This afternoon, Gaines took me to see the VanGogh to Mondrian Exhibit at the High Museum. It was part of his Christmas gift to me. Although we had to wait over an hour in line, the event made for some fantastic people-watching. Lots of odd, funny kids in strollers and cute little old ladies-- we even spotted a group of Red Hat Society women leaving the show with their scarlet plumage and regal apparel. I think the best moment in the crowd, though, was when we overheard the lady behind us exclaim to her husband: "I just flushed my cell phone down the toilet!"

The exhibit itself was an interesting foray into the development of European art philosophy at the eve of World War I. All of the pieces were from a collection by Helene Kröller-Müller, a wealthy Dutch wife who developed an eye for art under the influence of her mentor, H. P. Bremmer. She has the second-largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings in the world.

The tour began with the Neo-Impressionists, the pointillism of Seurat and Signac, and led through highlights of Van Gogh's work right up to Cubism and Pete Mondrian. We noticed how the influence of the war beginning to rage in Europe affected the increased abstraction by Mondrian and others. The horror of death and destruction indicated to the artists that any possible heigher deity was either uninvolved in the affairs of the world or did not exist, which was reflected in their mechanistic view of man and depiction of nature and persons as geometric figures. One interesting Cubist piece was Fernand Léger's "Soldiers Playing at Cards."

We both preferred the short strokes of color, whimsical patterns, natural subject matter, and detailed compositions of the earlier artists. It was also a treat to see Van Gogh's "Self-Portrait, 1887"-- I believe this is the first time it has toured in the States. I enjoyed seeing some of his sketches and still lifes as well.

There's something about seeing the actual paint applied to canvas or scrutinizing pencil drawings that brings art alive. To see where an artist added layers to make changes or erased a line here or there is to glimpse their process of sub-creation. I like imagining Van Gogh, alone in the fields near the asylum, taking in the vivid sun and rolling wheat and making it breathe fresh air on his paper. He infused the night and nature with a vivacity that is rarely expressed. In this, I think, God broke through his emotional darkness and offered the rest of us a glimpse of the new heavens and earth. I definitely think many of his paintings will have a place in eternity, declaring there forever the glory of the Creator God.

Vincent Van Gogh, Olive Grove, 1889.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Douglas Wilson weighs in on AAPC 2005 (first installment).

Edit: See also part two, on Gaffin, and part three, on Wright.
The new Superman movie will most likely be an abomination, but I think the casting of Kevin Spacey as arch-villain Lex Luthor is a really good choice.


Several, several months ago, the office had one of those donation drives for pull-tabs from coke (or "soda," for my non-Southern readers) cans. I guess the deal is that some generous corporation/charity agrees to donate a fixed amount for every pull-tab collected. For about a month, a collection bucket lived in each break room, steadily accumulating aluminum tabs. The drive ended, the buckets disappeared, and all was well.

Not so fast.

Imagine my horror to discover (today) a large plastic bag laden with pull-tabs, abandoned to the depths of of a breakroom cabinet. I demand answers! I predict that when this story breaks, it will make that whole Oil-for-Food fiasco look like a joke. (Which it was.)

AAPC - 1

Most of these recollections will be very broadly-brushed. Daniel Kirk has blogged some more in-depth comments on the lectures, so please check those out if you're interested. I'm sure blogdom will continue to resound with more reviews of the conference in the coming weeks. I will definitely be listening to the lectures again when I get my copies. There was a lot to digest.

N.T. Wright is a terrific lecturer. I enjoy reading him, but hearing him speak (especially in person) is great. He is animated and articulate, and he does a great job of interspersing his often dense material with a well-placed joke here and there. He opened his initial lecture by puzzling over why he, a bishop in the Church of England, should be concerned that he is the subject of intense scrutiny by contending factions of American Presbyterians. He compared it to two baseball fans arguing over which cricket player is best. After this humorous aside, he began articulating how his own studies have built upon the better traditions of the Reformation, and specifically, how they tie into the conference theme "Paul's Perspective: The Apostle and His Theology." To counter the shrill charges that he has "betrayed the Reformation," or other such nonsense, he intentionally formulated his opening remarks around the solas of the Reformation.

Wright's primary emphasis was on sola scriptura, specifically the total commitment to the Scriptures against all human traditions. I think Wright is dead on the money here in arguing that heirs of the Reformation should remain adamant that Scripture always prevails, with "no syllable altered" (with a nod to English Reformer William Tyndale). If the serious study of the text leads us away from our traditions, we should have the courage to follow wherever the text leads. Many of Wright's critics (to borrow from Daniel's blog) keep appealing back to "the questions of the Reformation," whereas Wright continues to drive it back to "Paul's questions." The Reformation, for all that it got right, simply cannot be the absolute starting point for theological discussion. As Wright noted, echoing many others, the church must be not only reformed but always reforming. This involves constantly re-examining our intepretations of the Scriptures.

Wright addressed the ramifications of solus Christus, as Paul emphasizes that Jesus is the world's true Lord. Paul's message is that, although the Caesars of his day promised peace and salvation, Christ alone provides these things, because God has vindicated Him as Messiah through the crucifixion and resurrection. At this point Wright noted that his critics have claimed he is weak on atonement theology. He then referred to his extensive argumentation that Jesus makes penal substitution, specifically from Isaiah 53, the cornerstone of His theology.

In discussing soli Deo gloria, Wright took a slightly different approach, claiming that his emphasis on Jew/Gentile Christian unity glorifies God by showing how God is redeeming and restoring the human race at large, not just a specific tribe. The covenant provides the means by which God works to undo the effects of the Fall. At this point, Wright addressed the issue of the Reformed view of imputation, which he believes is "saying a substantially right thing in a substantially misleading or wrong way." He does not like imputation language, because he wishes to avoid the notion that Jesus earned a righteous status by "climbing a ladder of good works," ("by being the one successful Pelagian"), and that this status is then conferred onto His people. Rather, Paul sees God vindicating Jesus as Messiah through His resurrection, and conferring a status of "righteous" upon Him and, consequently, to all who are in Messiah. Wright sees this view as satisfying the same concerns as imputation language, as redemption is secured solely by Christ with is no room for any sort of works-righteousness.

Finally, Wright affirmed sola fide, explaining that justification in the present is the anticipation of the future verdict on the Last Day. He very specifically stated that the present declaration occurs at the point of belief, and it is both covenantal and forensic. Wright affirmed, in no uncertain terms, that this present verdict is in no way dependent on human effort or activity. However, there is also a corporate aspect that has often been neglected. Wright notes that a doctrine of justification by faith not only indicates that there is no human contribution to salvation but also defines who is included within the covenant community (i.e., on the basis of faith in Jesus).

In this opening lecture, Wright directly addressed several criticism often hurled at him. He also made some explicit affirmations of the fixed points upon which his subsequent lectures would be built. Those affirmations are, in my opinion, key. Wright's critics are left with basically two options in persisting in their railings: either 1) that Wright's theology is internally inconsistent or 2) that Wright is simply lying about what he affirms. Sadly, I fear many will take the latter option. I know that some of his Reformed critics were in attendance (including an OPC pastor and professor at RTS-Atlanta). I am curious to see their reactions.

(FYI -- don't worry, I won't have a detailed breakdown of each lecture. My notes weren't that good. ;))

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Monroe Journalism

We noticed, on Tuesday, a young lady sitting near us who seemed even more out of place than we did. Her nametag declared that she was the Faith and Values correspondant from the local Monroe paper. We wondered what in the world she must be thinking about the conference. How would she report about such an intricate internal debate to the wider media?

Well, now we know.

Articles from the Monroe News-Star before, during, and after the AAPC.

An excerpt:
While Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians may not agree about many things, the conference showed they can engage in positive dialogue about their faith, said attendee Ray Atwood, president of New Saint Andrew's College in Moscow, Idaho.

"Gaffin represents an old-school Presbyterian view and Wright has an Orthodox perspective, but the great thing that's occurred is the clarity by which they've articulated their views," Atwood said.

I find it an interesting outsider's perspective. Understandably, she found Wright the more engaging speaker. I admire her for sticking it out through the entire conference, though she was obviously delving into unfamiliar theological waters with this assignment.

AAPC - intro

I'm still letting all my thoughts on the Auburn Avenue Pastors' Conference simmer, but I hope to have a few posts worth. Overall, we had a great trip. The conference was excellent. The folks at Auburn Avenue did a great job of putting the conference together. The speakers were, of course, fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed the hymn singing, as well. It was also good to put faces with some disembodied names from the blogosphere (such as Mike and Barb). Our bookshelves really benefitted from the conference, too (although my wallet wasn't too thrilled).

There were, of course, a few moments of awkwardness for us. The whole situation, actually. Two baptized Methodists, who currently attend a Baptist church, at a Presbyterian pastors' conference. And of course, not just any conference, but one for and by "theological miscreants." Wow.

Anyway, apparently there were some who were under the impression that this conference would be more of a debate between Bishop Wright and Dr. Gaffin. Not true at all. Instead, each presented a series (5 each) of parallel lectures addressing basic contours of Paul's theology. At many points, their concerns intersected and complemented. And at others, the large-scale differences between the two men were apparent. Of extreme value were the Question and Answer sessions, where the two not only answered questions from the audience, but also dialogued with each other about the content of their lectures. I found both men to be able teachers of the Bible and benefitted from their lectures. Pastor Steve Wilkins (of AAPC) opened the conference with his hope that the subsequent presentations would not injure the Church, but rather, would be a blessing to Christ's people. I believe it certainly was.

Oh, the good folks at First Baptist Church of West Monroe hosted the conference, since they have a LARGE sanctuary and facilities, which were necessary for the high attendance. This setting provided no shortage of lighthearted humor, as Wright, Wilkins and others commented that they weren't used to preaching in such a large "theater." Also, during a Q&A dialogue on infant baptism, Wright exclaimed that he couldn't believe he was saying what he was saying in a Baptist church. All humor aside, it was extremely generous of FBC-WM to open their doors to a bunch of Presbyterians and Anglicans (and whatever Allison and I are ...).

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Last night we went to see The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. It was my first Wes Anderson film, so I didn't know what to expect, but I just loved it. Wonderfully ecentric characters. It was lush, zany, and incredibly funny. Some moments, I just enjoyed looking at the screen-- the bright color combinations, the eclectic creatures and settings. It was artistic, but not artsy. I might describe it as postmodern brain-candy: self-referential and weird for the sake of weird sometimes, but not too full of itself. Most of all, I liked that the movie was infused with a sense of hope. I'd see it again in a heartbeat. Now I'm just going to have to rent Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums to see what all the rest of the fuss is about.

The New Testament and the People of God

I finally finished this book last Monday. I think I've been reading it since March. At least, that's how long I think it has been sitting by my bedside waiting to be read in between school assignments. I was just glad to finish it before the year was up, so I could say I've read at least one tome-like volume of Wright's Christian Origins and The Question of God before we hear him speak.

I actually used quotes from Wright's discussion of "critical realism" in one of my education classes when we discussed narrative research, and his discussion of Jewish history and the gospels' beginnings has greatly enriched my reading of Scripture. If there's anything overarching I would like to take away from reading this book--something that has particulary resonated with me this year-- I think it can be represented by this passage on the authority of the NT from the conclusion of the book:

The New Testament offers itself, both explicitly and implicitly, as a set of stories, and a single Story, which, like all stories, lays claim to attention. It does this even when treated simply as a myth: someone innocent of history, but at home in the world of fairy stories, or indeed of Tolkien's Middle Earth, could well find the New Testament powerful and evocative. This mythological power is in no way lost, but in fact enhanced, when historical study suggests that something very like this story actually happened. That, of course, is the point at which the relativist's account of the whole process is called into question, which is precisely why, in a relativistic age, the move from 'simply myth' to history-as-myth, or myth-as-history, is so often attacked. But that is the move that our whole study suggests and commends. If we read the New Testament as it stands, it claims on every page to be speaking of things which are true in the public domain. It is not simply, like so many books, a guide for private spiritual advancement. To read it like that is like reading Shakespeare simply to pass an examination. The New Testament claims to be the subversive story of the creator and the world, and demands to be read as such. Any authority it exercises in the process will be a dynamic, not a static, authority; the New Testament will not impose itself from a great height, and to attempt to use it in that fashion at once is to falsify it. Its claim is less brittle, and, if true, more powerful. It offers itself as the true story, the true myth, the true history of the whole world. (Wright 471)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Books Read in 2004


Common Grounds
How Should We Then Live?
Drinking With Calvin and Luther!
Girl With a Pearl Earring
Christian Mythmakers
Till We Have Faces
Sense and Sensibility
Anne of Ingleside
Daddy's Little Girl
The Potter's Freedom
The South Beach Diet
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
So Much to Say: Adolescents, Bilingualism,and ESL in the Secondary School
Image Grammar
The Old Man and the Sea
Esperanza Rising
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
The Circuit
Breaking Through
Clotel, or The President's Daughter
The Meal Jesus Gave Us
Our Nig
The Garies and Their Friends
Iola Leroy
The Conjure Woman
Where Angels Fear to Tread
Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning: An Approach to Distinctively Christian Education
Robinson Crusoe
Right Behind
The Fruit of Her Hands
Popular Fiction by Women 1660-1730: An Anthology
The House on Mango Street
The Romance of the Forest
The New Testament and the People of God


The Dream Giver
Given For You: Reclaiming Calvin's Doctrine of the Lord's Supper
Reforming Marriage
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
What St. Paul Really Said
A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Failure of the American Baptist Culture
The Passion of Jesus Christ
Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization
The Silver Chair
The Meal Jesus Gave Us
A Time To Kill
Right Behind: A Parody of Last Days Goofiness
Knox Seminary Auburn Avenue Theology Colloquium Papers
Prophetic Untimeliness
Supergeddon: A Really Big Geddon
Pierced by the Word
The Forgotten Trinity
Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther
The Horse and His Boy
Against Christianity
The Magician's Nephew
The Last Battle


Happy New Year!

2004 has ended, and another year begun. Although I meant to post about our Christmas travels earlier, we have had quite the busy holidays, which left little time for blogging. Here, though, is a recap of our celebrations and travels.

Thursday, Dec. 23: Traveled to Lake Martin, near Auburn, Alabama and enjoyed time with my parents. Read. Ate. Slept.

Friday, Dec. 24: Slept in. Enjoyed a lovely brunch (with quail!) with my mom's brothers and sisters. Read. We went to a nice little Christmas Eve Communion and Candlelight service at Red Ridge UMC. This was the first time my parents had visited there, since we were spending Christmas at their lake condo which they mostly use when gong to Auburn football games-- it was a neat service. Liturgy in any form is so refreshing.

Saturday, Dec. 25: Opened presents (from all of my family) and exchanged presents with my parents. Highlights included: money to buy a CD player for our new car, a small outdoor table for our porch, various DVD's and CD's, and lots of books. Traveled to Sylacauga, Alabama, to visit Gaines' grandmother and stepgrandfather. Ate an extremely delicious and extremely large meal. Opened more presents. Highlights of the day included playing Nerf N-Strike (it has an interactive DVD!) with his young cousin (and almost suffering a concussion when he shot me at point blank range, while Gaines almost had a broken tooth when the little boy head-butted him). Avoiding any more near-catastrophes, we traveled back down to Montgomery to spend time with Gaines' parents and sisters and their dog. And we exchanged more presents! More gift cards, DVD's, clothing, and fun. I also got a neat "teacher-bag" and a subscription to Southern Living, which I've missed reading.

Sunday, Dec. 26: Yet another trip, this time to Hueytown, Alabama, to visit Gaines' other grandparents and extended family. Another extremely delicious and extremely large meal, and it was time to exchange even more gifts. This is also the site of the famed Waters family gift-swap, in which everyone brings a present they'd really like to have and tries to get it back through much finagling and mischief. Then we rode back to Montgomery with his sisters. Where Gaines proceeded to play Halo 2 while I succumbed to the addiciton that is Sims (the 2nd).

Monday, Dec. 27: Exhausted from our action-packed weekend, we slept in yet again, and then drove back to Atlanta. We stopped on our way to have lunch with my parents at Cracker Barrel (yummy!) and then headed home.

Tuesday, Dec. 28th: Gaines, sadly, had to work. And I had plenty of Apartment Life tasks to catch up on. In the evening, we attended respective Bachelor/Bachelorette parties for our friends Chris and Kara. It was a late evening, needless to say.

Wednesday, Dec. 29th: Again, Gaines was at work. I however, got to go bargain shopping for a dress for the upcoming semi-formal wedding at Filene's Basement. That night, we were graciously invited to the after-rehearsal dinner at Maggiano's. We enjoyed a fantastic meal from start to finish, seeing baby pictures was a hoot, and we enjoyed seeing friends old and new.

Thurdsay, Dec. 30th: Gaines' last day at work this week. He actually won't be back until next Thursday, since we're going out of town. This was the evening of our friends' wedding at the upscale Buckhead Club on the 18th floor of the Atlanta Financial Center. What a fantastic view of the city. It was a beautiful ceremony presided over by a friend of the groom, a Presbyterian minister who now lives in Atlanta. We enjoyed an evening of dining and dancing with friends (well, we refrained from the latter at the risk of embarrasing ourselves).

Friday, Dec. 31:
After enjoying a nice long morning of sleeping-in, we ate lunch at our favorite BBQ establishment. In the afternoon, after cleaning up around the house, we watched a few episodes of Alias. I got seasons 1 and 3 for Christmas, completing my collection, so we started at the beginning and are working our way through. Since we've seen them all at least once, it is nice to watch knowing what we know now... We spent the evening entertaining some out-of-town guests, friends of the bride and groom who were very recently married themselves. Since they were both from the Sunshine State, they requested that we watch Vernon, Florida, since they had heard about the odd documentary, but never seen it. We also watched "Treehouse of Horror IV." What night wouldn't be complete without an episode of the Simpsons? After taking them back to their hotel since they had an early flight this morning, we celebrated the New Year with some champange and a few more episodes of Alias, of course!

So, as you can see, it has been a very exciting, action-packed week. YOu may have also noticed a theme: lots of good food and sleep. It's nice to have a few days to rest before we travel tomorrow to the Auburn Avenue Pastor's Conference in Monroe, Lousiana. Road trip, here we come!