22 September 2001

The folks at re:generation quarterly have given us a thoughtful and provoking series of essays in response to the events of 9.11.

21 September 2001

I've been playing around with the various tests over at "Select Smart." There are quizzes to determine your leanings with regard to literature, philosophy, religion, politics, etc.

My results:

Religion Selector: Apparently I lean towards Orthodoxy or Catholicism (100%) and, secondarily, toward mainline to conservative Protestantism (98%). Hmm.

Evangelicalism Selector: It says I'm closest to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod with the Orthodox Presbyterians a close second.

Ethical Philosophy Selector: Aquinas (100%), Aristotle (79%), and Augustine (78%). No surprise there.

Metaphysical Philosophy Selector: #1 Aquinas, #2 Berkeley, #3 Locke, #4 Augustine. Interesting list.

Ivy League Selector: University of Pennsylvania came in first! (Good thing too, since it's my alma mater).

Middle East Politics Selector: I'd make a good moderate Palestinian peace-activist.

I tried seven different political quizzes and came out as "Christian socialist," "socialist," "social-liberal," "liberal," "libertarian," "centrist," and "neo-conservative" depending upon the quiz I took. Since I think I have a coherent political philosophy, perhaps this just shows how impoverished our current political choices really are.

SelectSmart link thanks to jimhart3000

15 September 2001

"September 1, 1939"
W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

From Another Time by W. H. Auden, published by Random House.

14 September 2001

This struck me. An Arab-American's account of his escape from the disaster:

"I was on my back, facing this massive cloud that was approaching, it must have been 600 feet off, everything was already dark. I normally wear a pendant around my neck, inscribed with an Arabic prayer for safety; similar to the cross. A hasidic Jewish man came up to me and held the pendant in his hand, and looked at it. He read the Arabic out loud for a second. What he said next, I will never forget. With a deep Brooklyn accent he said 'Brother, if you don’t mind, there is a cloud of glass coming at us, grab my hand, let's get the hell out of here.' He helped me stand up, and we ran for what seemed like forever without looking back. He was the last person I would ever have thought, who would help me. If it weren’t for him, I probably would have been engulfed in shattered glass and debris."

Quote courtesy of entropy.

I pray that, by God's grace, we would all have done the same.

If you'd like to help with the efforts underway in NYC, one possibility is to give a donation to:

The Village Church
271 Madison Ave., Suite 1600
New York, NY 10016

Mark the check: Deacon Fund, NYC relief

Also consult the website of Redeemer PCA in Manhattan.

I haven't posted anything in a bit. The past few days have been busy and tiring.

The bulk of Wednesday was spent with my classes of students, trying to help them process what has happened. They had many good questions and thoughtful responses. But it was an exhausting day.

Fortunately, in the meantime, the pastoral counseling class I'm taking has met. We had a guest lecturer, but she was very helpful. She knew most of us are involved in teaching, counseling, or other care-giving and hadn't had the time to stop and express our own feelings, thoughts, fears, and anger. At the end of class we all prayed together.

Today things are returning to somewhat more normal patterns, but the events of the week along with the gray skies and drizzle continue to dampen the spirit of the campus. Our Friday liturgy begins in a few moments and I am thankful for the time to worship together with some of my students in memory of those who have perished.

12 September 2001

My uncle who works in lower Manhattan thankfully is away on a cruise with my aunt.

My brother-in-law, however, lost three co-workers at the Pentagon, one to whom he was somewhat close.

The world is, indeed, a small place. Lord, have mercy.

a couple of thoughts

We've had a day to begin processing our shock and grief to some extent. A couple of thoughts.

First, we must continue to pray for the victims, the rescuers, and their families. In addition to the horrendous loss of life, I'm sure the emotional toll this is taking on many people is terrible.

Second, we should pause and give thanks. This could have happened sooner or more often and hasn't, and for that we should be thankful. This could have struck closer to home for many of us, but didn't, and for that we should be thankful.

Third, we all, nonetheless, are affected. I'm reminded of Jesus saying, "Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?...I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Lk 13:4). This is an occasion for repentance and for prayer, "Lord, have mercy."

We have a personal need to reflect upon our own unworthiness: our own moments of hatred and murderous thoughts; those times when we take for granted the gifts of life and health, family and security; our desires for revenge and our unchecked anger; for failure to show compassion; and when we have failed to trust God and his love shown to us in Christ.

But we also have a national need to reflect upon our country's character: how often this kind of sudden terrorism has affected tens of thousands in other nations and our hearts have remained untouched; for the times we have lived by the sword when the way of peace was available; for what our nation has done to distant peoples to make this horror appear to them as a time for rejoicing; and the ways in which our nation has helped to foster an environment which breeds the kinds of desperation, oppression, and disempowerment that would provoke others to lash out in such violent and destructive acts.

And finally we need to pray for conversion: for those who have been affected by this in any way that it might be an opportunity for the Spirit to bring them to trust their heavenly Father; for the hearts of those who are overcome with hatred and anger whether in support of or in reaction to this tragedy; and for our leaders who need to depend upon the One who governs all things.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

11 September 2001


Almighty God, who has given us this good land for our heritage:

We humbly beseech you that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of your favor and glad to do your will...

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitude brought here out of many kindreds and tongues.

Endue with the Spirit of wisdom those to whom in your Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to your law, we may show forth your praise among the nations of the earth.

In the time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, do not allow our trust in you to fail.

All of which we ask, though Jesus Christ our Lord.

(1979 Book of Common Prayer, 820)

10 September 2001

nature and grace

I added a new paper to my website: "Rahner and de Lubac on Nature and Grace." It pretty much is what it sounds like - an overview of Karl Rahner and Henri de Lubac's respective approaches to overcoming the nature/grace dichotomy typical of earlier Roman Catholic theology. I tend to favor de Lubac's approach and thus spend some time critiquing Rahner's, though my critique isn't particularly original.

Also, you may notice that the "Writings" page of my website has been slightly re-organized. I added a link to a "Sacramental" page onto which I've moved the links for several older papers and to which I hope to add some more in the near future.

07 September 2001

ship of fools

After running into six or seven references to it in the past week, I finally looked into it and am happy to recommend:

Ship of Fools

"Ship of Fools" provides funny and provoking Christian commentary on the issues of the day and includes the added bonus of the "Mystery Worshipper" and a "Biblical Curse Generator."

As such "Ship of Fools" ranks up there with the classic The Door magazine (formerly "The Wittenburg Door"), which I've enjoyed for years.

05 September 2001

34 theses on justification

Mark and Jay Horne's Theologia website has now made Norm Shepherd's "34 Theses on Justification" available.

I can remember the "Shepherd Controversy" pretty well from when I was in late elementary school. I know I didn't understand the details of it at the time and was confused by how theologically-minded men of good will whom I respected (Dick Gaffin, Jack Miller, etc.) could fall on both sides of the issue. As the years passed, however, I did read and study Shepherd's writings and listen to all the tapes I could borrow from Westminster Seminary's library.

In the end, I've come down on the side of Shepherd, though I do wonder if he worded things as well as he might have or in as irenic a way as he could have. After all, he really wasn't saying anything substantially different than what many other Reformed theologians were saying (especially Dutch ones). Still, the acrimony that continues to be perpetuated over the issues Shepherd raised and the apparent lack of understanding on the part of many of his critics makes me wonder if the outcome would have ever been any different.

02 September 2001


Restaurant Review: The Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia, in the northwestern quadrant of the city, is reputed to be the oldest racially integrated middle-class neighborhood in the country. And a new restaurant, North By Northwest (advertised as NXNW) reflects that diversity.

On Germantown Ave. in the heart of old Mt. Airy, NXNW occupies what was once a furniture store, storefront intact with tables filled with dining patrons on display to entice passersby. The space within has been transformed into a great gathering place - part restaurant, part bar, part jazz club. An elegant retro bar, salvaged no doubt from an old cocktail lounge, dominates one wall while rest the of NXNW is filled out with understated furniture, black and white photos, and a professional stage that hosts some of the best local jazz talent Philadelphia can offer. The back alley has been cleverly turned into outdoor seating, decorated with old doors, hubcaps, bike wheels, and assorted junk that comes together as a fountain.

The menu offers a wide variety of typical bar/bistro cuisine, but with a decidedly down-home twist and touches from African-American traditions. Bread is served with a jar of flavorful berry and muscat raisin jam. Various salads and appetizers are available and we tried a tomato and mozzarella on a bed of field greens and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I had a good rack of lamb, tender and flavored with rosemary. Others in our party had striped bass seared with green and white asparagus in a lemon marinade, a pulled-pork sandwich with a nice pickle relish on the side, and corn meal and pecan-encrusted catfish with a pecan tartar sauce. Entrees come with two sides and we selected green beans (sauteed with onion), cold yellow beet salad, corn pudding, and creamed spinach, but barbecued beans, greens, mashed potatoes, and several other options are available. For dessert we shared a berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream and a large dish of coconut-rice pudding.

I really wanted to give this restaurant four ×'s, but the food, while very good, is fairly unremarkable - just good, solid cooking. Nonetheless, the neighborhood feeling, the atmosphere, the music, and the diversity of both the clientèle and the wait-staff all combine to make a truly wonderful experience.

Rating: ××× (out of ××××)
Location: Germantown Ave. between Mt. Pleasant and Mt. Airy
Price: Moderate
Serving: Dinner (from 5:30 pm)
Other: live music most nights

01 September 2001

women & the diaconate

What ever the ambiguities of the New Testament data may be, it is certain that by the early third century, the Church had deaconesses (or women deacons), with both liturgical and catechetical duties, and who were set apart by bishops through the laying on of hands.

How this historical evidence is interpreted and evaluated is another matter (e.g., were these women "ordained" to a clerical office like male deacons or simply "set apart" to a duty like lectors).

Two important contributions to the interpretation and evaluation of this evidence have been made in recent years. First, there is Aimé Georges Martimort's Deaconesses: An Historical Study (Ignatius 1986). A French Roman Catholic scholar, Martimort gives an extended and excellent apology for the historical credibility of the position of the Catholic church - that the deaconesses of the early Church formed a non-clerical order to assist and subordinate to male deacons, who were not permitted certain functions open to their male counterparts, and whose setting apart by the hands of the bishop did not constitute "ordination."

Second, there is Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald's Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church (Holy Cross 1999). An Eastern Orthodox theologian who has represented the Ecumenical Patriarch at conferences, FitzGerald winsomely argues that the deaconesses of the early Church were truly an ordained clerical order, coordinate with, even if subordinate to, their male counterparts, and who ministered as deacons teaching and giving pastoral care to women.

In my opinion, FitzGerald provides the stronger historical argument, even if Martimort shows that the ministry of deaconesses was more limited in some respects in comparison with male deacons. Of course, the biblical argument is primary, but these authors provide much insight into how the relevant Scriptural data was understood in the early post-apostolic Church.