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Problems worthy

Of attack

Prove their worth

By hitting back.

–Piet Hein


Mostly I’m writing over here:

The End Of The Affair

GM Buildings DetroitLike a forlorn ex-lover, GM/Ford/Chrysler tries to catch our eye from the other side of the courtroom. Her pleading glance begs for one more chance, a bit of money to set things right and continue on. But we know all too well the whirling vortex of buying madness she stirs in us. And we’ve moved on—we’ve matured—we see things differently. Plus, we suspect bailout money will clunk through the same financial assembly line that currently rewards the top brass with excess before the workers get their pittance. That is, after all, standard operating procedure in capitalism.


Mind you: let’s provide for the offspring of our affair. Let’s find a way to help the workers. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking handing over $34 billion to GM/Ford/Chysler management will either change their ways or help the workers. We already know the chances are slim on both accounts.


As we try to avertour eyes, we remember the good times. Yukons and Suburbans barreling across the open plains at 80 mph, pulling boats and trailers. We get a bit misty, but try not to show it. But would those days return if we forked over the money she wants? And do we really want those days to return? Remember our resolve, when gas was $4.30 a gallon, to leave the 11 miles per gallon machine in the garage and bike to the grocer? Remember how we almost started to feel good about it? We started to think, yes, there must be a better way to get around the planet—there must be a way that doesn’t cost so much and deplete the place and stink it up too.


We love our cars. Always have. But maybe those days are over. Not just because GM/Ford/Chrylser is quickly sinking into the mire. Not just because the price of gas will certainly go back up again, but also because it is hard to love a Prius. Maybe a pragmatician or utilitarian can feel affection for a thing of theoretical beauty only. But the days of shooting from 0 to 60 faster than a freeway entrance requires—those days may be done. Plus, maybe it is time we grew up and stopped basing our identity on how many tons of steel we’re wrapped with. The economy seems to be leading us toward a bit more practical wisdom.


But we’re weak. We’re starting to fold—we look up hopefully and catch our breath with the locked gaze of GM/Ford/Chrysler. Be strong! Look away. Listen to your brain on this one, not your heart. And tell our elected officials the same: They desperately want the plush good times to return, with the jobs and grinning voters. Vote with your reason, sir!


But it is time. Not for a bail-out, but for bankruptcy. Use the bailout money to help the workers, but don’t expect a bail-out to trickle down to anything useful through this thrashing, noisy machine.


It may just be the end of the affair.



Critique of Chapter 3-Spirit & Gender Language: How Far Do We Follow Biblical Language?

One fear I have in entertaining different perspectives (like Johnson’s in previous blogs) is that we let go of patterns God incorporated into scripture for our benefit. Patterns we may be aware of and, in particular, those patterns we cannot see but may have profound shaping effects on our lives. I think of how seminal thinkers of the past have allowed themselves to be shaped by the words—and the concomitant ideas—of the Word. That being said, I recognize that emphases in conversation among God’s people tend to place men as examples.


Are words inadequate in describing God? It would seem so, though the words He does provide tend to hint at much more than they say, which is one of the marks of strong writing. God’s use of analogy (or should I say the writers of God’s words?) as described elsewhere in these six blogs are generally rich with meaning.


And maybe words are inadequate even in describing ourselves. We know from Romans 8.26 that words have limits to what they can express. And yet God has used them—and offered them for our use—from the beginning. Are words adequate for expressing all we need to say? Certainly they are adequate for expressing what must be said in times of duress (Matthew 10.19, Mark 13.11, Luke 12.11), which is one of the roles of the Holy Spirit: God speaking through us.

Critique of Chapter 3-Spirit & Gender Language: How Far Can Analogy Go?

In my last entry, I noted how feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson offered different and useful ways of discussing the role of the Spirit, as Cole pointed out. Cole moved forward from Johnson with a discussion about the words we use to talk about God (Cole, p.80), and how they have traditionally been inadequate in describing God. He also cited perspectives from Aquinas, Feinberg and Alston in discussing ways our words work-and don’t work-when we talk about God. If God has no body, his “actions” are unlike actions we undertake, for example). The discussion left me wondering where analogy ended and truth became compromised.


There are certain limits we have a humans. We can understand only so far before we stop understanding. Maybe when we talk about God we quickly find language inadequate because the topic is vast. Did the Bible writers stick to describing God as they did because that is the best any of us could do? Probably. We’re all limited to the words we use. We learn more, and our words grow to accommodate that learning. The same must be true of God, but I’m comfortable with the notion that there are large parts of God I may never understand until He opens my mind and heart beyond what I can currently apprehend.





Spirit & Gender Language (Critique of Cole Chapter 3): Is The Spirit Feminine?

In conversation with a few others reading Cole, it is clear that Cole largely shies away from looking at the Holy Spirit from a feminist perspective. He cites Elizabeth Johnson who argues that feminine imagery of the Spirit (Cole, p. 79) in the Bible should inform our discussions about the Spirit. In discussion about this part of Cole‘s book, I noticed my fellow female students nodding in agreement with the notion that our language about God seems to (generally) diminish the role of women by referring to God’s more masculine traits.


I’m not sure how helpful it is to think of God in feminine or masculine terms. Biblical authors lead us in those different directions to make particular points (for example, compare Isaiah 32.16 vs. 18), but God is generally outside those categories–bigger than those categories. I like Johnson‘s point as quoted by Cole: “Introducing female symbols has the effect of purifying God-talk of its direct, even if unintentional, masculine literalism.” (Cole, p. 79)


In this case, hearing from unfamiliar voices (feminist readings are new to me, I’ll admit) helps open my perspective. I appreciate the fresh voices, but it remains a dialogue, right? I do not want to swap out Biblical language to de-fang some offending analogy. I’d rather continue to hear the caveats that surround the analogy then dispose of the analogy. What if there is more to the analogy that I’ve not yet had the wisdom to understand? Let’s keep bringing up counterpoints in conversations, but also keep grappling with Biblical language.

Is Cole’s Theology Too Tightly Choreographed For God’s Spirit?

Cole does a good job showing where and how the Spirit of God acts and appears in the Old and New Testaments. He carefully locates these Spirit-moments each in proper context so as to piece together a conservative perspective. For instance, In teaching I’ve often gone back to the Spirit’s role in enabling workers (like Bezalel – Exodus 31.5) to devise artistic designs for the tabernacle as a general statement of the way the Spirit works in in the creative process today. Cole gets a bit more specific and shows how the Spirit’s enabling of the artists working on the tabernacle is less a paradigm of the Spirit’s work today (which is in contrast to both Calvin and Kuyper who thought the Spirit’s role there  a paradigm for working with human tatent–p.125)  and more a statement about what God was doing for Israel at that moment.


One question of emphasis has to do with Israel versus the Church. I cited Cole‘s reluctance to expand the Spirit’s role in creativity from Israel to the people of God in general. He was right on that point. But I wonder if his thought about the role of Israel versus the church influence his reasoning about the Spirit’s work?


For instance, Cole disagrees with Packer when he said the baptism of the Spirit was about power for service (p.195). In Cole‘s view, the baptism of the Spirit is evidence that “Prophetic Israel has been reborn,” so the people of God have begun a new thing. And thus the baptism of the Spirit is not for today. (196) It is purely a sign of the new thing begun among these people, which is a start of a new thing for all the people of God.


I wonder if there is a third way between Cole and Packer that sees prophetic Israel reborn and the Spirit providing power for service?