Archive for March, 2008


I’ve been busy in Slovakia on a high school service project for the past week, but found some time to participate in this little exercise. Neal Locke tagged me to answer the Presbymeme. Click here to find out what this is all about. As you read this post, let me disclaim that my answers are really no more than impressions – observations through a window, out of the corner of my eye, from a long way off. For questions 2 and 3 in particular, I can only offer my vague hunches, not real personal insight.

1. What is your earliest memory of being distinctly Presbyterian? I guess that would be three days ago when I saw that Neal tagged me for this meme. I’ve spent most of my life, including the past four years, in armed forces chapels (Air Force, Navy and Army) with 57 flavors of Protestant chaplains. I’ve recently stated that I have no “special loyalty to the Presbyterian church”, however, one might observe that (1) the majority of the churches I’ve attended in my adult life that were not military chapels were Presbyterian, (2) three of my chaplains were Presbyterian, including all three years in Naples, (3) I married into a Presbyterian family and church, (4) I’ve been a member of a PC(USA) church for six years, and it’s the only church I’ve ever “formally” joined, (5) that church is a huge part of our missionary support base (6) I’ll be applying to a Presbyterian seminary this summer, and (7) my blog is listed on Presbymergent. So it would appear that whether or not this shoe actually fits, I am wearing it.

2. On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend LESS energy and time? When I was in the navy, we pilots used to joke that Naval aviators’ attitude is that we could do anything in flying unless the “book” explicitly prohibits it, while Air Force pilots can only do something if the “book” specifically allows it. I have a suspicion the PC(USA) might be more like the Air Force. Maybe it should spend less time writing very specific flight instructions…

3. …and more time flying. On what issue/question should the PC(USA) spend MORE energy and time? Perhaps “flying” would be building communities that intentionally include those outside the church and using those communities as platforms for doing unto the least of these our brethren.

4. If you could have the PC(USA) focus on one passage of scripture for an entire year, what would it be? Romans 12:9-18, especially verse 18, using the fullest, richest, most expansive definition of peace / shalom.

5. If the PC(USA) were an animal what would it be and why? In the little bit of surfing I did on this meme, I saw several wonderful and creative answers here. Here’s my stab at clever originality: a Weimaraner; a noble breed with an aristocratic pedigree, beautiful and elegantly put together, though not always the most cuddly. Originally, bred for a specific and practical purpose, but now more commonly raised as show dogs. Here are some fun, possibly appropriate words from Wikipedia: “All parts of the dog should be in balance with each other, creating a form that is pleasing to the eye…Weimaraners are very protective of their family and can be very territorial. They can be aloof to strangers, and must be thoroughly socialized when young to prevent aggression. They are also highly intelligent, sensitive and problem-solving animals…”

farmer-dog.jpgAnd of course, the real reason I chose the Weimaraner: there is reason to be hopeful for this breed, as some specimens can apparently be convinced not to take themselves to seriously:

I’m going to wave off on the Extra Credit.

I’m not even well connected enough to tag five more people, but I will tag Marcus Watson and Adam Walker Cleaveland (tagged again) and invite Doug Forsberg (and any of the other good people at FPC Newport) and Bill Enns to start blogs just to participate. Or at least answer in a comment!


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No, this post actually has nothing to do with “An Inconvenient Truth” or the 2000 Presidential election. What’s actually on my mind is graphic violence and the crucifixion story. A couple recent incidents have me thinking about the central images of the central narrative of the Christian faith. First, I read this article about a Sunday school curriculum that chose to remove the story of Jesus on the cross from their preschool:

“because of the graphic nature of the Easter story and the crucifixion specifically” they have “chosen not to include the Easter story in our curriculum.” They go on to explain that “the crucifixion is simply too violent for preschoolers.”

The curriculum company (“First Look”, I think) has not apparently removed the crucifixion from other grade-levels, just preschool. However, many commenters see this as a “slippery slope” kind of thing and expressed much hand-wringing about this decision. Popular opinion (at least on these blogs) seems to be overwhelmingly opposed. Generally speaking, I guess I’d agree: while we clearly should not show “Passion of the Christ” to young kids, the cross and resurrection can be taught to very young children in an appropriate way. However, as I read these blogs, I didn’t sense much introspection on First Look’s rationale, that the crucifixion is too violent for preschoolers.

The second incident was my own adult Sunday School class last week, Palm Sunday. We spent the hour listening to a teacher give a graphic, detailed description of Jesus’ torture and death. This speaker included many very precise archaeological facts that were new to me, but for the most part, I’ve heard the same talk many times before. I’ve heard it in sermons and at youth camps and in books. It was of course horrifying; I felt physically queasy, and at one point thought I might need to leave for water or air or something. Later on though, I thought – “Why?” What is our motivation in that sort of talk? What end are we trying to achieve and is this methodology the best way to reach that goal? These questions particularly stood out for me in this case, because I had to leave before the end of the video (no, not to be sick), so I never heard the speaker’s point, the application, the “so what”. All I got was this gory narrative of Roman crucifixion, disconnected from any purpose.

Now of course, from long experience, I know the purpose: the speaker wants me to know that God loves me so much, that he was willing to bear this ultimate pain and humiliation to redeem me. Or with a harsher doctrinal nuance, he was willing to have his son bear this pain in my place. And then what? Well, of course I trust Jesus and commit to follow him. And my motivation for doing so, based on that presentation? Guilt? Remorse? Gratitude? A sense of indebtedness? I think the speaker here, and every other time I’ve heard that message, would say yes, yes, yes and yes. And while the scandal of the cross will always be at the core of our message, this week, I feel rather thoughtful about this kind of approach to it – intense, graphic gore. Is it necessary? Is it effective?

The Bible does not go into detail; it’s pretty terse. Graphic descriptions were not needed, as early Christians had this atrocity right before their eyes all the time. The simple words “and there they crucified him” were enough to invoke horror and shock. I understand early Christians didn’t even use crosses in art or worship for a couple hundred years because of the shame of Jesus undergoing this kind of execution. One might argue that the absence of crucifixions is exactly the reason why we must explain what it means so clearly to a modern audience. On the other hand, my students pay $10 at the multiplex to watch gruesome cruelty in the likes of Saw IV and Hostel, and with a quick Google search, can find video clips of actual beheadings by terrorists. A visceral cross talk could (a) be ho-hum for shock value (b) come across as too fantastic to hit home. I’ve known teens whose response to the cross talk was to feel sorry for Jesus. Clearly, the point of the message was missed.

I’ve asked more questions here than I’ve answered. It’s just some stuff that’s been stirring in mind that I thought I’d share. I’m interested in any thoughts any of you might have.

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Shannon and I put together an experiential worship event for our Service Project team this weekend. It went over really well – students and adults alike gave us tremendous feedback. The documentation to the event is linked below. Feel free to download it, use it, share it, modify it, whatever. If the Word doc doesn’t work for you for some reason, leave a comment and I’ll send you text or a pdf.

Click here for the plan: worship-mosaic.doc

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Welcome to Logomanikos

Hi there! I’ve been blogging for a couple months now, but I finally feel ready to invite the world to my little corner of cyberspace. You may be here because you were on my “email everyone I know” invitation. I promise that will be my only spamming – no mass “hey check out my new post” emails ever. If you enjoy this site, please subscribe (read the “new to blogging” link below). For those single digits of folks who’ve already been reading – uhh, welcome to you too!

Here’s a quick orientation:

  • Click here to learn what Logomanikos means
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Then if you want to catch up on other random stuff I’ve been writing about the past two and a half months, click on the links under “Archives” in the bar on the right. You could probably read the entire Logomanikos archive in about an hour if you were so inclined. In case you didn’t visit the above linked posts, let me emphasize: blogging is a two-way conversation. Please feel free to share your thoughts on anything you read here. To join the conversation, just click on the words “No Comments” (or “2 comments”, etc.) at the bottom of a post.

Thanks for stopping by! Come again soon – and invite a friend.

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“Our doctrines are not photographs of Reality. They are the attempted description of heavenly things by means of the hints and guesses which earthly things provide.” – From Tensions by H.A. Williams.

Jesus didn’t talk in doctrine. He talked in parables and figures of speech quite a bit. “The kingdom of heaven? Well, it’s kind of like this…it’s a little like a farmer planting seeds – or some yeast – or a wedding feast – or ten bridesmaids – or a landowner hiring workers – or a fishing net, or…” God willingly took on limits in assuming flesh – all kinds of limits. Is the human mind capable of fully comprehending the truth of God? If so, how does that play out in the way Jesus understood and carried out his mission? At a minimum, I think the language of Earth is insufficient for fully communicating the truth of God, even if the mind could grasp it. Jesus worked within the confines of a fully human mind, and accepted the handicap of language.

I thought of this analogy one time for what it must have been like for Jesus teaching on earth: imagine losing your sight in an accident, living for 20 or 30 years as a blind person, and then being assigned the task of communicating to people born blind what the color green is. How would you begin to explain the concept of color in general, much less describe a specific color? You could tell them a green object is one which reflects only that electromagnetic radiation in the visible spectrum that has a wavelength of 490 to 560 nanometers. That description would be quite accurate, but would it really help your blind friend appreciate what green is? Maybe that’s kind of like doctrine.

On the other hand, you could hang out with the blind a lot and try to correlate experiences they did have with an experience they had never had. As you walk around a mossy pond: “Hey – feel that squishing between your toes? That’s green.” When you smell a newly mowed lawn in the summer: “Mmmmm… green!” While you are enjoying a crisp spinach salad together; as you sympathize with a friend’s jealousy over a promotion she deserved, but didn’t get; while you listen to an Irish folk band in a pub…”You know, that’s a lot like green.”

And after you left, your friends reflect on all these experiences and conclude that in fact, the color green had been right there living with them.

Then one day, they awaken and find that they can at long last see. As the brand new sensation of color hits their eyes for the very first time, they realize immediately – “Ahhhh, green.” It’s absolutely nothing like they imagined, and they recognize it immediately.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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I can only assume this was before George Lucas assumed iron-fisted control of the “Star Wars Universe”. Maybe this is even what caused him to do so:

Happy Life Day, everyone!

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This article on apologetics is fantastic. I am a modernist thinker who is slowly learning to live and move in a postmodern world. As much as I begin to appreciate and adopt postmodern values, I don’t know if I’ll ever stop thinking in a modern way. Jan gives some good thoughts about living with this tension.

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