Wednesday, 31 March 2010

maybe Orthodoxy is everything... ;-)

Searching online for David Thomas' discussion of the dating of Paul of Antioch's Letter to a Muslim Friend (as you do), I stumbled upon this blog, which opened a window onto modern Orthodox Christian experience.

Most interesting indeed, and one to return to when I have two-and-a-half hours spare (possibly in July) is this lecture by a real scholar, Roman Catholic professor Sidney Griffith. His breadth of learning and ability to synthesize and interpret the complexity of Middle Eastern Christian history in its fragmentary and repeatedly politicized context is outstanding. I've read most of his publications, and if I had time I'd read them all!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Geography is everything a teacher at my school used to say, and as my brother, who now teaches it at a posh and overachieving school (even more than the one we went to!) is fond of reminding me.

Well, here's a fascinating Christian geographer's blog. It's not all maps and colouring in, you know.

So interesting that I'm putting it in the sidebar too, if I can remember how to do that...

no Psalm 8 without Hebrews

Jesus Christ is the one who makes most sense of that Psalm and indeed of everything.

And while we're on the subject of nostalgia, Hebrews and Psalm 8 were right there at the start of this blog (eke and mild and Hebrews 13). Glad to know I haven't moved on from what is important, but, rather, I ought to have moved further into it. Like the fractals, I hope to be going round and round, not in circles of emptiness, but in spirals of ever-increasing richness. That's what growing up is about, and thus what growing up into Christ all the more so. And, of course, it can't be done without Christian brothers and sisters, so praise the Lord for the church, too.

nostalgia and productive chat

We had Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian in Cambridge last week to speak at Great St Mary's the Corn Exchange for "Passion for Life". Saturday (which I didn't hear) was the Reason for God; Sunday (which I did) was Counterfeit Gods. Each evening was loosely based on key ideas from his two best-selling books. By all accounts the Sunday one was better - I certainly found it stimulating, and it contributed greatly to the conversation started between Dave and Dave months ago, which I joined in the Panton Arms shortly before we wandered up to hear Keller.

What a great chat that was - stimulating and intimate, the history of philosophy, the perspective of faith, music, searching, questioning, formulating, reformulating, just what our brains were made for. Looking forward to continuing. Probably have to read some Schopenhauer, now...

It really took me back to the panelled rooms of Downing College at the end ofthe last century, staying up all night with green tea and my agnostic best friend and best man, whiling away the hours on everything - not to mention back to the studying itself, a historical whip-round political thought and ethics from Plato to Nietzsche (in amongst more prosaic [and poetic for that matter] stuff on medieval social history or Renaissance literature).

And that got me thinking about another friend who stayed up all night patiently trying to explain chemistry to me (in those days I was still under the impression that A-level chemistry was "true" and was pleased with myself for having done some science as well as all the arty-farty business), while writing beautiful fractals on the computer. We managed to discuss Reformed theology and the Christian life quite a bit, too, and it was great to see him again at my 30th in the summer after a gap of many years.

Praise the Lord for such wonderful experiences, and for keeping me following him since then. What a wonderful world, what wonderful creatures, what a wonderful Creator.

 O LORD, our Lord, 
  how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
  You have set your glory 
  above the heavens. 

 From the lips of children and infants 
  you have ordained praise
  because of your enemies, 
  to silence the foe and the avenger. 

 When I consider your heavens, 
  the work of your fingers, 
  the moon and the stars, 
  which you have set in place, 

 what is man that you are mindful of him, 
  the son of man that you care for him? 

 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [c] 
  and crowned him with glory and honor. 

 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; 
  you put everything under his feet: 

 all flocks and herds, 
  and the beasts of the field, 

 the birds of the air, 
  and the fish of the sea, 
  all that swim the paths of the seas. 

 O LORD, our Lord, 
  how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Economist and the earthly city

I am 5 days behind on The Economist (i.e. last Friday’s has not yet been opened). Either my bowels are moving more quickly than usual (the magazines are generally stored in the bathroom), or else it’s been a productive week in other areas of endeavour. Anyhow, as I finished off last week’s edition this morning, I was taken with the style of the obituary, as often happens. The page on Alexander Haig (American General, White House Chief of Staff under Nixon, head of NATO, foreign policy spokesman for Reagan, etc, etc) closed with a sweet metaphor from the General’s book Caveat, riffed by the journalist…

The [Reagan] White House was as mysterious as a ghost ship; you heard the creak of the rigging and the groan of the timbers and sometimes even glimpsed the crew on deck. But which of the crew had the helm? …It was impossible to know…

If someone evidently had the helm, General Haig saluted. If not, rather than let drift and uncertainty give any comfort to America’s enemies, he had acquired the habit of seizing the wheel himself.”

Grand sentiments, steely nerves, national business – all in a day’s work for the rich and powerful, I suppose. Even the little people like me can get dewy-eyed about this sort of stirring stuff, actual or fictional (as happened when I re-watched the ludicrous yet strangely charming cornfest that is Independence Day over lunch on Tuesday). But let’s be aware of the mythic and ideological guises of the state, the nation, human hierarchies, construals of enemies, and so forth. Let’s remember what really lasts, where the city with foundations comes from, who it comes from, and what really counts...