thought for the day: on the tension between experience and innovation

Old vs. Newi give tremendous respect and deference to individuals with experience and longevity in a particular discipline. those who do things for a long time are, on average, far better equipped and knowledgeable about a particular subject than those who are newcomers to a particular discipline. as a scholar, i respect experience and precedent.

that said, just because someone has been doing something or arguing the same thing for a very long time doesn’t make that person’s technique or theory correct. tradition is not truth, and ‘proof’ is never the last word, it is only the best word thus far.

i am always surprised to hear that classic line, ‘i’ve been doing this since before you were born.’ such a comment is the banter of the uneducated. claiming that experience trumps all new research is a desperate grasp at authority, and reeks of pride disguising insecurity.

the last time i heard the line ‘i’ve been doing this since before you were born’ was in my blue collar home town of fresno, ca, where two shop workers were arguing over the proper way to change the oil. it is not an effective line because it betrays the possibility that someone has been doing or thinking about something incorrectly for a long, long time.

if an established technique or theory is correct, it will easily withstand new and innovative approaches. if it is not, it will gradually erode and be replaced by the new theory or the more efficient technique. simply arguing that the way we’ve always done or understood something is better because those doing or thinking it have done so ‘since before you were born’ may be worthy of acknowledgment, but certainly does not make it the best.

have a nice day.

jesus christ: mixed martial arts superstar??

MMA Jesusyou have absolutely got to be kidding me.

the daily show has done a great segment on how some ministries are using smackdown style evangelism to spread the word.

a couple of deranged pastors in the south are using mixed martial arts and feats of strength to evangelize people. john renken of clarksville, tennessee runs ‘xtreme ministries,’ which teaches mixed martial arts as a form of evangelism. likewise, todd keene of dallas, texas runs the ‘power team,’ which does feats of strength to impress people for jesus.

i shake my head.

in fact, is it possible to laugh at (and not with) people while shaking my head?? seriously. how stupid can some people be? wait, don’t answer that.

the only religion that should use feats of strength is festivus. that’s it. the rest is adulterating and packaging xnty just to be cool. look, if you like to do something like boxing of football, great. and if you want to thank god for your ability to catch a ball in the end zone, wonderful. but don’t build a ministry around doing things that openly contradict the principle message of a particular faith. (that goes for you ‘gospel of wealth’ and tv evangelists as well!) you don’t kick people in the head for the glory of god! xnty is not a contact sport, it should be focused on service to those in need. it’s not a freakin’ side show!

again, the answer to dwindling numbers in the pews is not to fundamentally change the core of the faith or to employ big time wrestling tactics in worship. how about give them something worthwhile? or is that too hard for people these days?

what’s next, pimp my gospel?

[ht: jim west]

you must buy this book: ‘soundings in kings: perspectives and methods in contemporary scholarship’

Soundings in Kings: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship

'Soundings in Kings: Perspectives and Methods in Contemporary Scholarship' by Klaus-Peter Adam and Mark Leuchter

you must buy this book, especially if you study the books of kings!
soundings in kings: perspectives and methods in contemporary scholarship‘ is the latest offering edited by klaus-peter adam and my colleague mark leuchter. if you don’t buy this book, god will exact punishment upon you like he does the chicago cubs.

from the publisher (fortress press):

The reigning assumptions in 1970s and 1980s scholarship on 1 and 2 Kings, and indeed on all of the Deuteronomistic history, have come under serious question. How can differing views of that history be reconciled? What sources were available to the authors? Should we call them “authors”? How well do the Books of Kings fit into the larger history of which they are a part; just who composed that history, toward what end, and in what context? How do the assumptions of contemporary interpreters influence the answers we give to those questions? In Soundings in Kings, international scholars pursue these and related questions by examining 1 and 2 Kings as an independent work, identifying new methods and models for envisioning the social location of the authors (or redactors) of Kings, the nature of the intended audience or audiences, and the political and rhetorical implications of its construction. Soundings in Kings demonstrates the role of Kings as a cornerstone work within the Hebrew Bible, a crossroads between prophecy, poetry, wisdom, ancestral and national narrative, and ritual instruction.

you can preview the book on google books here:

ISBN: 9780800697167
Release Date: Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Format: Paperback 224 pages 6 x 9 inche

go on, buy it!

the latest on the search for noah’s ark

who does one root for on this one?

first, noah’s ark ministries international announced to the world via press conference that they were ‘99.9% certain’ that they had discovered noah’s ark.

many of us responded, rejecting the claims.

dr. randall price of liberty university also responded. however, since he had previously worked with nami, he had information (revealed by paleobabble’s michael heiser and the christian science monitor’s stephen kurczy) that the whole thing may have been fake.

dr. price also did an interview for fox news where he said the following:

btw, dr. paul zimansky, professor of archaeology at the state university of new york, stony brook, makes a wonderful point in his interview. he states:

it happens every year that somebody finds an ark. i don’t know of many expeditions that have gone off and failed to find an ark. but within a year, everybody’s forgotten it and they do it again. they never refer to previous discoveries.

now it appears that noah’s ark ministries international has put together a video response to the smackdown (see also here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here) that scholars worldwide, including randall price, have sent to the media since nami told the world they discovered the ark. nami attempts to answer the following questions:

  1. are rumors more scientific than solid evidence?
  2. did the expedition team witness and examine the wooden structure in noah’s ark?
  3. is it possible to deliver large wood beams to an elevation of 4000 meters?
  4. is the wooden structure at an elevation of 4000 meters is no more than a fake set?

these videos do little to answer the questions. but perhaps the most telling video released by the media evangelism, ltd. is one entitled do we believe in the noah’s ark or the god behind it?

in the video the speaker explicitly states that he became a christian after a previous bogus ark discovery claim (at the 3:50 mark). he goes on to state that whether or not nami‘s claim is verified in the end, as long as people come to jesus, it is worthwhile (view from the 4:25 mark). watch the video. in fact at the 5:13 mark, the speaker amazingly states:

Therefore as mature Christians, we should be accurate in speaking. When we talk about it from news or scientific aspects, we are just making use of it. The thing itself is not the truth. It is prone to change. Even today when i say that this is 90% sure to be the Ark, assume that one day the 10% rest showed that it is not to be the Ark, even then I don’t think it matters. Because what people believe is not only Noah’s Ark itself, they should believe the God who worked behind Noah’s Ark.

the speaker goes on to compare this find to the claims made about the shroud of turin, which he says brought many people to believe in jesus, even though it was later shown to be a fake. what matters to the speaker is that people believe in jesus, not whether or not the ark they claim to have found is real.

if this is not the most egregious, blatant, irresponsible misuse of archaeology to intentionally fool people into believing in christianity, then i don’t know what is. it’s just wrong.

for his part, dr. price has responded on his world of the bible ministries website. and he pulled no punches.

randall price shot back with a press release and an extensive explanation complete with email evidence – evidence that shows the collaboration between him and nami, and evidence that shows dr. price sent 60,000 euros to nami, about 2/3 of which was refunded to dr. price after he quit.

you can read it all here.

i think that as the fallout from this entire debacle continues, it will become quite clear that the entire mission was a premeditated campaign of deception intended to use something that will appeal to people – noah’s ark, and a lie at that – in an attempt to get them to convert to christianity. it is unthinkable that a group of christians would think that this is an acceptable form of evangelism, much less an acceptable form of science.

10 ways christians tend to fail at being christian: a response

Huffington Postthere’s a great post by john shore on 10 ways christians tend to fail at being christian on huffington post. i shall list them below with my responses:

  1. too much money
    agreed. xnty has become a means by which to have commercial success. it was never intended to do that.
  2. too confident god thinks we’re all that and a leather-bound gift bible
    agreed. when xnty became ‘tolerated’ by rome, it fundamentally changed xnty. by the time xnty became the state religion, its members felt entitled and not persecuted. today, the ‘persecution’ some xns say they face in the us is actually the rightful questioning of their entitlement.
  3. too quick to believe that we know what god really means by what he says in the bible
    agreed. it seems that people can warp the bible into supporting just about anything these days. xns need a better hermeneutic, a better understanding of context, and an improved sense of the difference between literalism and biblical themes.
  4. too action-oriented
    disagree. xns are not action oriented enough. one of the main problems of xnty today is that they believe that if they hold the correct doctrine or worship properly and enough, they are good xns. xns should actually do what the bible has asked them to do – love others, cup of cold water, service, etc.
  5. too invasive of others generally
    sort of agree. xns are called to minister to the lives of others. if there is no interaction, then xnty is irrelevant. i agree if by this he means xns shouldn’t be as evangelical/pushy as they are. again, xns should focus more on service and less on making more xns like themselves.
  6. too invasive of others personally
    see above.
  7. too quick to abandon logic
    agreed. in an effort to defend the text and maintain an unnecessary claim of textual infallibility and inerrancy, xns are far too quick to even entertain abandon the laws of physics, exit the realm of science, and enter into the realm of the miraculous. if god is who he says he is, he can handle a few tough questions.
  8. too fixated on homosexuality
    agreed. see here.
  9. too insular
    agreed. xns should be out there serving and less sectarian. jesus hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. today’s xns put up gated communities to keep these out.
  10. too uneducated about christianity
    amen and amen. this is why i do what i do. if xns knew, really knew, what the bible said, how to read it properly, its context, and its purpose from a genuine academic perspective, we wouldn’t have ‘xns’ protesting gay funerals and healing people on tv for money. xns should seek a critical education of the biblical text and not retreat to a sectarian education of a school pushing a particular doctrine.

how not to worship

as many know, i have no problem with making one’s worship service relevant. likewise, i do feel that modern manifestations of corporate worship need to be open to change and movement away from the same ol’ ‘three songs and a prayer’ worship to which many have become accustomed. additionally, most know that i am all about opening any belief up to discussion and critical examination in order educate others and understand why some people believe what they believe. we must regularly examine every claim to determine whether certain claims and traditions are worth maintaining.

that said, there is a part of what has come to be called ’emergent’ church – particularly with regard to what passes for ‘worship’ these days – that i protest. let’s set aside the highly problematic theological chum that is thrown to the eager audiences that are typically neither educated about the text or context of the bible, nor the practical manifestation in one’s life of what the text actually says.

case in point: ’emergent’ worship. the only thing more nauseating than watching people worship like this is attempting to strip the instrumental music out of it and sing it in an a cappella setting. it’s bad enough to watch this overly dramatic, substance-lacking drivel on its own. it’s even more difficult to watch some attempt to force this into an a cappella woship service. it’s enough to want to make one swear off modern christian pop music altogether in favor of primus and damien rice.

but now, finally, someone has done us the service of making a video that illustrates all that is wrong about the modern worship process. give me substance. give me debate. give me coordinated opportunities to serve. but do not, under any circumstance, give me this, uneducated, substance-lacking, pop psychological, overly emotional, guilt-exploiting, desperate attempt to make up for a lack of leadership and theological understanding by popularizing worship. i’m not saying i like boring, old-fashioned, ‘the way we’ve always done it’ services either, but lights, amps, and long, dramatic pauses do not cover up the long term effects brought about by lack of substance and relevance that a deeply held understanding of one’s faith and commitment to service to others brings.

the more christianity resembles a bad pop concert, the less truly relevant it will be come in the lives of people.

with that, here’s how not to worship:

n.b. the best part of the video is the hebrew tattoo, which unlike mine, says: vayhi, which means, ‘and it came to pass…’

this cracked me up because the same letters (yod, heh, and waw) are used to spell the divine name, thus adding to the mockery by implying that most people who get hebrew tattoos don’t actually know how to read the hebrew on their arm. so people trying to put the name of god on their arm end up with ‘and it came to pass…’

and for the record, ויהי is the qal imperfect (waw consecutive) third masculine singular apocopated of the hebrew verb היה meaning ‘to be’ and thus translating to: ‘and it was’ or ‘and it came to pass…’)

(withholding public hat tip until given permission to post who actually sent this to me, but you know who you are. thanx!)

cargill’s latest at bible and interpretation: forget about noah’s ark; there was no worldwide flood

bible and interpretation has posted my latest offering entitled, ‘forget about noah’s ark; there was no worldwide flood.’ the article addresses the problems stemming from many evangelicals and other fundamentalists who read the primordial history narratives of israel as literal and ‘historical.’ the article demonstrates how there physically could not have been a worldwide flood that covered all landmasses in the past 10,000 years (which is needed to argue for noah’s ark). the article was prompted by the latest group to claim to have discovered noah’s ark: noah’s ark ministries international.

give it a read.

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