Pithy quotes from our current reading which give us pause to reflect

It seems we all fall short, and churches fall short which leads to disappointment. A quote from Bonhoeffer, from Richard Beck’s blog:

But might some grace be found in our disillusionment? Might our disappointments with the church be a gift? That’s an argument Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes in Life Together :

Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.

Link to blog containing quote here for fuller context:

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Screenshot 2024-02-02 at 12-51-26 “CSI Jerusalem Case of the Missing Body” by Russ Breault
Screenshot 2024-02-02 at 12-52-13 “CSI Jerusalem Case of the Missing Body” by Russ Breault

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Thanks, @jpm . I needed that.

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Just started reading Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. This will be rough and valuable as such reading is.

This bit made me cringe. It could be about me.

"It felt like an initiation into a caste to which I had somehow always belonged. Over and over, they shared scenarios of what they had endured, and I responded in personal recognition, as if even to anticipate some particular turn or outcome. To their astonishment, I began to be able to tell who was high-born and who was low-born among the Indian people among us, not from what they looked like, as one might in the United States, but on the basis of the universal human response to hierarchy—in the case of an upper-caste person, an inescapable certitude in bearing, demeanor, behavior, a visible expectation of centrality.

After one session, I went up to a woman presenter whose caste I had ascertained from observing her interactions. I noticed that she had reflexively stood over the Dalit speaker and had taken it upon herself to explain what the Dalit woman had just said or meant, to take a position of authority as if by second nature, perhaps without realizing it.

We chatted a bit, and then I said to her, “I believe you must be upper caste, are you not?” She looked crestfallen. “How did you know?” she said, “I try so hard.” We talked for what seemed an hour more, and I could see the effort it took to manage the unconscious signals of encoded superiority, the presence of mind necessary to counteract the programming of caste. I could see how hard it was even for someone committed to healing the caste divide, who was, as it turned out, married to a man from the subordinate caste and who was deeply invested in egalitarian ideals."

(9% Bookshare edition in Calibre)

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I just read this today. If you have been a long-time listener of “The White Horse Inn,” you’re probably acquainted with this lovely man. He has been away from the show for some time, and I’ve missed him.

Rod Rosenbladt was one of the original hosts of White Horse Inn. Rod died after a brief illness on February 2, 2024. For many of us, “Dad Rod” was more than just a regular voice articulating a confessional Lutheran distinctive on the radio. He was a mentor, a father in the faith, and a trusted friend. The board and staff of Sola Media extend our deepest condolences to Rod‘s family and to our friends at 1517.org, the organization Rod founded with his son, Ted, after retiring from his post at Concordia University and stepping down as a regular host of White Horse Inn. Although we grieve his death, our tears are mixed with joy for we know that one day we will see him again, all of us changed into the image of the Christ he loved to proclaim.

Listed below Dr. Horton’s letter is a list of resources written and presented by Rod for White Horse Inn as well as for Modern Reformation during his time on the roundtable. We hope they will bring encouragement and wisdom.

My heart is heavy with the news that one of my dearest friends and mentors, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, has died. A wide variety of eulogies can be written about Rod because he touched the lives of so many people from so many walks of life. Everyone has Rod stories.

I met Rod in 1986. Dr. Kim Riddlebarger was teaching with Rod at Dr. John Warwick Montgomery’s Simon Greenleaf School of Law and introduced us. I had started a little group at Biola where we went through Romans and then evangelized on the streets of Hollywood. The first time he came to our group of misfits at Biola, he held up two crossed fingers: “Luther, Calvin,” then another two: “Wesley, Rome.”

Rod told some stories over and over. But they were never about the rich and famous or the evangelical elites he knew over the decades. A lot of them were about his dad, Mayo Clinic surgeon and Lutheran layman, with Bibles and notebooks spread open around the table and men laughing, praying, and learning together. When a teenage Rod totaled the car his dad gave him, all he heard was the good grace of a loving father.

Whatever Rod’s dad put into him, Rod shared with us. We called him Dad Rod on the White Horse Inn. He wasn’t just the elder sage in the room but reminded us of what was best in our own fathers. Rod became good friends with my parents and grieved with me at both their funerals. Same with my brother Gary’s. Just a few weeks ago, he and his son Ted invited me to hang out, but something came up. I really wish I’d had one last chance for an evening with a man who shaped my adult life.

Rod was the guy you wanted at your side in life, but also as a debate partner. It was like having a hybrid of Luther and C. S. Lewis in the room—but even more. Rod brought his own gifts to the game. He was never churlish but genuinely respected people, even those with whom he disagreed. He never resorted to ad hominem, not just because it wasn’t his nature but because he had too much substance he wanted to convey. The first debate we did together was while I was still in college, sponsored by the Student Association. A few years later, we had the debate with Roman Catholic theologians at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, then another with Clark Pinnock and other representatives of Open Theism.

Over drinks, we could reprise our five-centuries-old Lutheran-Reformed debates. But whenever I suggested tackling our differences on White Horse Inn, he always grumbled, “No, let’s just go to the OK Corral together to defend the gospel and help people.” He was especially sensitive to those who had been hurt by the church, whose doubts were judged instead of engaged, young people about to walk out until he told them about Christ’s imputed righteousness and the evidence for his resurrection. A whole book could (and should) be written with Rodisms like “Christ died for the sins of Christians, too.” Everything went back to the cross and resurrection, everything, always.

Rod had a picture hanging over his fireplace with a cowboy looking in at a house. “That’s me,” he said. “I’m always an outsider.” Rod was not a natural son of the LCMS. When his American Lutheran Church merged with the body that would become the mainline ELCA, it quickly lost its commitment to the inerrant scriptures. He became a student of Dr. John Warwick Montgomery and similarly joined the LCMS because of its faithfulness to the Lutheran confession.

Rod was “out there” with all sorts of non-Lutherans, teaching courses for Campus Crusade leaders and hanging out with non-Christians with ease. If I were not a Christian, I’d want to be after an hour with Rod. On one occasion I recall J. I. Packer saying, “Rod, you not only teach Luther’s theology. You embody the very man.” Rod and R. C. Sproul developed a close relationship as well and had him speak at Ligonier events.

Over three decades together on White Horse Inn, Rod helped me to discover my own Reformed tradition, too. In defending crucial distinctions between the law and the gospel, for example, he pressed me to go to my own sources, where I discovered he was right long ago when he held up those crossed fingers. We would argue over Christology, baptism and the Eucharist, but it always provoked a new quest to go back to my own sources.
He taught me so much. I often say of my WHI colleagues that I don’t know where my comments begin and theirs end. So much of what I say is unintentional plagiarism of Rod, Kim, and Ken.

Rod always knew where the edge of the envelope was. He was a Lutheran of the deepest conviction. But he never, ever forgot the crossed fingers: “Luther and Calvin.” And more importantly, he never forgot to point us all away from ourselves to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

–Michael Horton

Because of an excellent HolyPost interview with pastor Brian Zahnd (in the last half of the linked podcast), I’ve purchased and begun reading his book “The Wood Between the Worlds”.

Here is a quote from his preface.

…in modernity we have a penchant for technical prose when engaging in theological conversation, earlier ages - and the Bible itself - have a fondness for the less precise but also less limiting language of poetry. Theopoetics is, in part, an attempt to speak of the divine in more poetic language. It is an attempt to rise above the dull and prosaic world of matter-of-fact dogma that tends to shut down further conversation. If in this book I occasionally veer away from prose to employ a slightly more poetic language in how I see the cross, this should not be regarded as fanciful, but as the best recourse I could find to describe the truth I believe the Spirit is helping me to see. It’s an invitation to consider something new. With that, let us begin what I hope will be a kaleidoscopic and theopoetic conversation about the wood between the worlds.

From the interview:

Our challenge here in America is that we’re called to disciple people who have already been thoroughly discipled in another religion.
-Pastor Brian Zahnd.

…And then there is his favorite sentence. (one that he says he keeps repeating in all that he writes - a paraphrase of something Hans Von Urs Balthasar wrote). Here that is:

Being disguised under the disfigurement of an ugly crucifixion and death, Christ upon the cross is paradoxically the clearest revelation of who God is.

Zahnd, Brian. The Wood Between the Worlds: A Poetic Theology of the Cross (p. 28). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

And all of that provokes a thought of my own:

There is a theology of nationalism, and a theology of the cross. You can’t have both.

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  • IMO, it’s an attention-worthy book. especially:
    • “The eight pillars of caste. The foundations of caste: The Origins of Our Discontents – Pillar number one: Divine will and the laws of nature – Pillar number two: Heritability – Pillar number three: Endogamy and the control of marriage and mating – Pillar number four: Purity versus pollution – Pillar number five: Occupational hierarchy: The Jatis and the Mudsill – Pillar number six: Dehumanization and stigma – Pillar number seven: Terror as enforcement, cruelty as a means of control – Pillar number eight: Inherent superiority versus inherent inferiority.”
  • Divine will? Consequences of treating the old testament as “Ipsissima verba” of God, infallible and inerrant, tends to lend weight to its declarations of Divine will. Not bad if you’re in unison with that will.
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And in the top caste.

Thanks for your reply, Terry.

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The second half of that goes back to the Fathers, and the first probably does as well. As a current Orthodox lecturer summed it up one day, when we look at the Cross we see what it means to be God.

So very true. Yet theological nationalism is a subset of triumphalism, where Christians think we are supposed to “win” in this world.

In my experience there’s a symptom that is quite good at telling whether someone is likely to fall into theological nationalism: those who look at the Cross and see victory are not likely to, while those who think that the Resurrection is the victory are. Why? Because the Resurrection is the sort of thing we like to regard as victory since it is about emerging triumphant. But the parade after the battle is never the victory; the victory is what happened on the battlefield, and there’s a truth about such victory: it is quite often not recognizable until a piece of time after the battle has ended.
The one view sees the Resurrection as an event in itself, but that is not why we celebrate the first day of the week; we celebrate weekly Resurrection day because it is the fruit if the Cross. If the Resurrection was part of the battle – which it necessarily is if it is victory – then Jesus was not correct when from the Cross He made the triumphal declaration, “τετέλεσται” (teh-TEH-less-tie), “It is now and forever completely finished”. Even that word was not the victory, but it was the announcement that the victory had been accomplished.

[I often think that Satan must have been frantically confused at that moment. Here he had gotten the Son of God killed, his foe sent to the realm of the dead, yet that Foe summoned the energy to announce that He had finished His job. But the Adversary probably heard it differently, that Jesus was declaring that He had done His best but it was over; He had lost to death and was giving up – after all, when had Satan ever seen a man who wasn’t subdued by death?]

If (and I so wish that English had a version of the slippery little conditional conjunction in Greek that means “if” yet can mean that and “since” at the same time) the victory is the Cross, then Christianity in the halls of power should show itself not by pursuing legislation to force people to conform to some standard or other, it should show itself by pushing power to serve “the least of these”.

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  • I could easily have done without out the first part of the podcast. It raised my blood pressure, more so because a childhood friend enjoys baiting family and friends with anti-Trump stories.
  • Regarding the Hans Urs von Balthasar qupte, I read in it the same message that N.T. Wright spoke and wrote: It’s only when you put the crucified (and, I add, the resurrected) Jesus Christ in this:

God

that we get a clear picture of who God is.

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I hear you on that - it raised my blood pressure too. I probably should have just found some youtube bit of just the interview itself.

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“In a sense prophecy was assigned an impossible task. With language limited to what we have experienced, how can God be described?” (p. 27) D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002

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Hanging out a bit with Wikipedia today. This seemed significant again:

image

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When you look at that graph, and see the vast empty spaces, it must have been glorious to see what God brought forth in those gaps.

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  • At New Testament for Everyone (NTFE) , if I’m not mistaken, Bible Gateway has included N.T. Wright’s The Kingdom New Testament under the title “New Testament For Everyone”.
  • Compare:
    • (KJV) Galations 6:15 - “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”
    • (NASB) Galations 6:15 - “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.”
    • (NTFE) Galations 6:15 - “Circumcision, you see, is nothing; neither is uncircumcision! What matters is new creation.”
  • Now Bible Gateway needs to include David Bentley Hart’s translation, so that we can compare Wright and Hart’s translations and “take sides”. :laughing:
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From Barbara Brown Taylor’s “Learning to Walk in the Dark”

…While Greek has no word for “ego” (a word that did not exist in any language before the early nineteenth century), psyche comes close. The salvation of the psyche begins with its own demise.

This function of religion does not sell well, Wilber says, because it does not locate the human problem in the spiritual shortfall of the world. It locates the problem in the spiritual grasping of the self, which is always looking for ways to improve its own position. In popular American usage, Wilber says, “soul” has come to mean little more than “the ego in drag,” and much of what passes for spiritual teaching in this country is about consoling the self, not losing it.

Taylor, Barbara Brown. Learning to Walk in the Dark: Because Sometimes God Shows Up at Night (pp. 87-88). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

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The whole quote is brilliant!

It requires learning to die to self to find just how life-giving that can be!

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What an admission!

There is, I acknowledge, some force to this objection. There just may be goods beyond our wildest dreams, goods we are unable to imagine. And, for all we know, bringing about such goods requires God, if he exists, to permit E1 and E2, as well as countless other horrendous evils occurring in our world. And this means that the inference from ‘no good we know of would justify an omnipotent, omniscient being in permitting E1 and E2’ to ‘no good at all would justify an omnipotent, omniscient being in permitting E1 and E2’ is not as strong as I originally believed. Of course, if the goods we know of are really a representative sample of all the goods there are, and we have good reason to think this is so, my argument would be successful. But it is not at all easy to show that the goods we know of are a representative sample of all the goods there are.