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Saturday
May112019

A break, more or less

I deactivated my Twitter account last week. I'll resurrect it at the end of the month and re-vamp whom I follow. I will probably protect my tweets after that. I like the convenience of Twitter for my news and blog links, but, honestly, it really does bring out the worst in people. Including me, I suppose. I need to make some fundamental changes about how I decide whom to follow.

I'm also cutting back at blogging. I have a lot to do this month.

I have a list of five books I want to read by the end of the month. I'm currently well into a history of Scotland. My husband and I are planning a trip to Scotland and Ireland next spring. I also picked up a travel guide for Scotland. I want to see the battlefield at Culloden as well as do some hiking. We want to take a ferry across to Belfast, and visit the Mourne mountains.

We have home decorating stuff to do. I don't enjoy that. I like the finished product, but this is a challenge for me. We begin dismantling my living/dining room on Monday. Where will I put all of the books on those shelves?

I've got some fitness goals for the month. It involves using weights and doing modified pushups that will hopefully become full pushups at some point.

I bought the dress I'm wearing to my daughter's wedding. That's one less thing to worry about.

Even though I don't start Hebrew studies until September, I'm learning the alphabet and the sounds of the letters beforehand. I've been told that vocabulary is a steep learning curve. With Greek, there are so many words in English derived from it that sometimes, it was easy to figure out a word. Not with Hebrew. I am almost finished translating I John 3 from my Greek NT.

I'm thinking a lot about online friendships/relationships. I'm thinking that the "fan girling," i.e., following after Christian celebrities is not necessarily a good thing for contentment. Those relationships are one sided. We invest in them. We like their pictures on Instagram or compliment them on Twitter. They may or may not respond. There is no reciprocal relationship. We don't really know them.

Better to build relationships with people we know.

It's been a cold spring so far, but i won't complain. Things are greening up nicely. 

Monday
May062019

Who Were the Celts?

A few years ago, I kept hearing the term "Celtic Christianity." From what I understood, the Celts were heavy duty warriors, not missionaries. They were certainly pre-Christian. What did this ancient people have to do with Christianity? Who were the Celts, after all?

That is the question dealt with in Barry Cunliffe's excellent little book The Celts: A Very Short Introduction. And it was very short; only 143 pages; easily read in an evening, but I read it over a few days, enjoying a chapter with a cup of tea or my breakfast.

When we think of all things Celtic, our thoughts naturally turn to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Originally, however, their centre of origin was in Gaul and Brittany. Ultimately, they moved into those others areas, but originally, they were on the continent. Julius Ceasar referred to the people of Gaul as Celts. A people who lived facing the Atlantic would, of course, eventually find their way across the water. As they came into contact other people, especially the Romans, they would be changed. Cunliffe talks quite a bit about the Celts being invented and re-invented.

Cunlife is an archeologist, so he deals with artifacts. However, he does allude to the reality that the language of the Celts as one of the most significant aspects providing continuity between dispersed people groups. I found the discussion of language fascinating. The easiest way to put a people to death is to take their language from them. That is exactly what happened Scotland, Ireland, and to a lesser extent, Wales. 

The purpose of the book was to provide an introduction to the subject, and it did just that. But as any good introduction will inspire one to do, I found myself wanting to know more. The list of recommended reading was helpful, and I've already ordred a book about the druids. I'm very interested in how Christianity interacted with druidism once large scale missionary endeavours took hold in Ireland and Scotland.

The entire series of Very Short Introductions by Oxford University Press looks worthwhile.

Friday
May032019

Is laoch mé

"I am a warrior."

That is Irish Gaelic, I believe. I think there may be another word for "warrior," but this is the one that Professor Google presented me with most frequently in my search to find an accurate translation.

Recently, I purchased a necklace of a Celtic Warrior shield. If books are my greatest weakness, jewlery is my next greatest weakness. I especially love jewelry that has etching on it. My favourite place to buy such jewelry is a wonderful place in Dublin. That guy knows how to run a business, and ever since I used birthday money from my mother-in-law to buy a silver ring, he's had my loyalty. 

I often reflect on the reality that I grew up in a combative home. It was not a bad home, and we were loved and my parents provided for us. I have good relationships with my parents and two of my brothers, but it was a home of combat. I grew up feeling defensive. Perhaps it was just my own sinful heart, but as I heard stories of how my mother grew up, I realized that my mother grew up in a very combative home. My grandmother was critical, unmerciful, self-centred, and didn't know when to keep her opinions to herself. I see bits of her in myself, even as I cringe to think it. She was not kind to my mother, and her unkindness made my mother defensive. These things have a way of carrying on throughout the generations. I am sure I made my own children feel defensive.

I was the only girl in the family, and that often meant fighting. I can remember wanting to be taken seriously, but feeling like I would always be looked upon as a silly, weak little girl. I was not a girly girl, and I knew how to talk to boys so that left me on the outside of all things girl. I felt like I had to fight to gain any sort of place among girls, and it was usually a losing battle. It is clear to me now that my defensiveness likely carried over into my friendships. And who wants to be friends with someone who is defensive all the time?

Ultimately, my greatest battle is against myself. I am a sinner by birth, by nature, by practice. I, like everyone else in the world, must do battle with my pride, selfishness, pettiness, and lack of faith. I completely sympathize with the apostle Paul when he talks about his desire to do what is right, but having his members rage war against him (Rom. 7:21-25). Ultimately, any sense of victory comes through Christ. I don't feel defenseless before Christ. I feel relieved that through him, and the power of the Spirit, I'm not a lost cause.

I find conflict exhausting. I don't like arguing. I am definitely no Boudica. But I find it a battle to keep my own tendences at bay. Just when I think I've overcome, something else comes along. It is true that Satan loves to creep up on us when we are feeling pretty satisfied.

I'm pretty much a wimp when it comes right down to it. But I wear my bright and shiny trinket to remind myself that I am the war I fight.

Thursday
May022019

I'm the least logical person I know

I was a little apprehensive about taking apologetics. I knew that it involved argumentation, and I am not naturally logical in my thinking. Being able to make and weigh arguments is a crucial aspect of aplogetics. Being familiar with logical argumentation is especially helpful when we seek to determine whether an argument is true or contains a fallacy, an error in reasoning. Arguments succeed or fail based on their coherence, and fallacies make arguments collapse.

One of the most common fallacies is the ad hominen fallacy. When we commit that fallacy, instead of addressing the person's arguments, we attack them personally. I am committing that fallacy when rather than addressing my husband's argument, I address his character. Perhaps he points out that it is a better idea to take down our big maple tree this year rather than next year because the cost will be greater as the rotting inerior begins to collapse, demanding a more complex method of removal. If I respond, "Well, you're just lazy and don't want to rake leaves in the fall!" that is ad hominem.

I watched something unfold on Twitter recently (this is the downside of having more free time) where that particular fallacy was committed frequently. These days, if we don't like what someone says, we call that person a heretic. Or if we're not so bold as to drag that word out, we will mock the person in less obvious ways. Or we will question whether or not the're truly born again. Whatever our method, it does not involve actually engaging the arguments, but serves to simply make the other person look either foolish or bad. As I shared some of the comments with my husband, he said, "Ah, the old 'you're not really a Christian' response."

We are tempted to use ad hominem attacks when we don't know a lot of the subject matter. Or when we are not interested in truly listening. Or when we're just kind of stubborn. Whatever the reason, it's a weak response to an argument because it in fact completely ignores the argument.

In C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, the old professor wonders why no one is teaching logic to kids anymore. I share that feeling of regret. I know when I was taking apologetics, it was work for me to sit down and actually follow an argument to its logical conclusion. But I had to, and it was a good exercise. I still don't like logic, and I'm not philosopher, but I can see how helpful it was. Personally, I think elementary argumentation and logic should be taught to high school students. And there should definitely be a required course for Bible school students and seminary students.

And people using social media to argue or debate could use some basic tools. Here is my recommended text. I used it when I homesschooled my kids: The Fallacy Detective.

Tuesday
Apr302019

Very brief thoughts about biblical context

"Please come to my office at 8:30 a.m. on Friday."

That seems a very simple statement. One thing is being asked: to come. If the verb were in Koine Greek, we'd know immediately that it's an imperative because of its construction. In English, we discern it.

Of course, that phrase, simple as it is, can mean a lot of different things.

It can mean a student is wondering what he did wrong to be summoned to the principal's office.

It can mean a woman is wondering what the test results of her biopsy were.

It can mean a man is wondering if he's about to be fired.

it can mean someone is getting a large inheritance from her old Aunt Annie.

Communication that works is a relationship between speaker (or author) and listener (or reader). We are all interpreters, even of the smallest bits of conversation. Recently, my husband and I were washing dishes together, and as I was bent over a pot, scrubbing, I heard his voice say, "Where does this go?" My question, of course, was "Where does what go?" I needed to see the context for the question.

When we read the Bible, we must muddle through more than the immediate context of the words, although that is crucial. There are place names and names of gods and dieties in the Bible which are unfamiliar to us, but for the original listeners present no problem. Historical, cultural, and geographical contexts inform the text we are reading. Likewise, in the New Testament letters, the context which the authors wrote is crucial. Unfortunately, it is difficult to piece together the context because we only have one side of the communication. 

In the past, when I have studied the Bible, teachers have rightly suggested that study in the text occupy our efforts first before we look at commentaries. That said, there is also the reality that we may not be able to understand the text without looking at a commentary. We are encouraged to let the Holy Spirit teach us, and ultimately, he does. But certainly finding out some historical context is useful. The Holy Spirit is not offended if we use our intellect or benefit from someone else's.

A book I picked up earlier in the year is The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. It was very useful in my synoptic gospels class, as I was able to get a little more understanding into particular words, phrases, or situations. And of course, nothing beats a good commentary written by someone who has really spent time not only in the text, but in the time period of the text.

Think about when you have had your words taken out of context. When that happens, our concern is being misunderstood. The same applies to the text of any Bible passage we read. Yes, we must deal with the immediate context, but the other layers of context are equally important, and disregarding some of them can mean we don't entirely understand.

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