26 February 2006

tim keller in the times

tim keller in the times

Today's New York Times ran an article about Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer PCA in NYC: "Preaching the Word and Quoting the Voice." The article provides a stimulating and favorable snapshot of Keller's work in New York for those who might not be familiar with the remarkable success of Redeemer PCA in reaching out to New Yorkers with the good news of Jesus Christ.

25 February 2006

other proverbs

other proverbs

A couple of folks emailed me and asked if I had contributed any other entries to Marion Clark's A Proverb a Day blog. Since I've got nothing better to blog, I'll give you a list of the handful of entries I've contributed:

Blessed are the Peacemakers (15 Sept 05)
Words that Wound and Heal (13 Sept 05)
A Sure Foundation (24 June 05)
Of Dread and Desire (23 June 05)
Guilty Pleasures (24 June 05)
Wealth without Trouble (21 June 05)
Lips That Feed (20 June 05)

I hope these are helpful to you in some way.

One thing that writing these brief reflections made me think about was those friends of mine who are priests (Anglican and Catholic) who give short homilies daily as part of their regular celebration of the eucharist or the daily office. Several of them are quite skilled at providing direct, thoughtful, practical comments upon the lectionary text.

I can't say that I know much about homiletics, but I think it would be an interesting exercise to have divinity students be given a text, a brief time to prepare, and then deliver a few minutes meditation and exhortation. I know I've found the discipline of quickly producing these reflections upon Proverbs valuable for my own ability to articulate biblical teaching in a concise, useful manner.

24 February 2006

spring lecture series

spring lecture series

This year La Salle University's philosophy department is sponsoring what looks to be a really solid lecture series on the topic of American philosophy, centered on the question of what makes it "American." Speakers will include Bruce Kuklick of the University of Pennsylvania, Jeffrey Stout of Princeton University, and John Diggins of the City University of New York.

For times, locations, and further information, consult our philosophy department's website. You may also email me with any questions.

23 February 2006

proverbs 15:28

proverbs 15:28

Another proverb, another day.

For Thursday, February 23, 2006
Proverbs 15:28

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

I opened the email with some trepidation, knowing what it likely contained: more bad news from a friend who had already been subjected to a series of unjust accusations, but now faced more of the same. And I was being asked to help frame his response.

Anger, as Aristotle notes in his Rhetoric, often involves "a desire accompanied by pain, for conspicuous revenge for a conspicuous slight at the hands of men who have no call to slight oneself or one's friends" (II.2 1377b31). That's a stomp your feet, spit obscenities, smack the computer monitor sort of anger. The temptation, of course, is to vengeance, to return evil for evil, to lash back with a stream of accusations and invective as harsh and unjust as that which has hurt you or your loved one.

That, however, is not the path outlined in today's proverb.

We may not face hostile accusers. Some disputes may involve no ill will, but only inability to agree. Even so, the temptation is too often towards the harsh answer or clever retort, the witty barb or unfair blow.

Our Lord himself, who knew no sin, remained virtually silent before those who sought his life, speaking few and choice words. How much more must we who are sinful and weak take care to frame our responses to those around us with whom we may simply differ. Let us then watch and weigh our words in order that even our enemies can make no accusation against the truth we speak in charity.

22 February 2006

proverbs 15:27

proverbs 15:27

Our executive pastor, D. Marion Clark, maintains his "A Proverb a Day" blog in addition to his church news blog and sermons blog. Sometimes when he's been away Marion's had various other folks at the church fill in for him, posting some thoughts on the day's proverb.

Today and tomorrow, I'm filling in. Since I'm not blogging much else, I thought I'd post my thoughts on the day's proverb here as well.

For Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Proverbs 15:27

Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household, but he who hates bribes will live.

Even in the modern world with its procedural justice, those with wealth can influence the machinery in their favor. How much more was this the case in Israel with its networks of personal contact, loyalty, and respect. Thus, we find in Scripture, a number of strong statements about the danger and wickedness of bribery.

And we still see the possibility of secret (or not so secret) gain influencing the treatment of those who are too impoverished or too poorly positioned to make such offers: the executive who accepts personal gifts in exchange for offering a contract to a second-rate but wealthy company, the pastor who cancels counseling for an unwed mother in order to be treated to lunch by a generous donor, the researcher who selects his data with an eye to the enhanced reputation the funding corporation promises him even if his results might endanger those at the margins of society.

This, however, is not God's way. In Deuteronomy 10:17, Moses tells Israel, "Yahweh your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe." The God of Israel was no local deity to be manipulated and bribed for his favor, but rather the God of all creation who stands in need of nothing from his creatures. Indeed, this great Judge of all the earth is same God who, in the person of Jesus Christ, made himself poor for our sakes, in order that he might find us in the right before his court, having restored himself what was lost due to our sin.

As today's proverb tells us, those who are greedy for bribes and unjust gain adopt habits that not only destroy themselves, but bring ruin upon their entire household. The patterns of human relation implicated in bribe-taking cannot sustain themselves over time. We who are Christ's church, however, must live as those who know we are recipients of God's unmerited favor, a God who judges the poverty of sin mercifully and at great cost to himself. When we trust this God revealed in Christ, we will hate bribes and live.

21 February 2006

interesting essay

interesting essay

Over at The New Pantagruel, Dan Knauss offers this thoughtful essay: "Christian Humanism, Past and Present."

As he notes, he wrote it a number of years ago, before The New Pantagruel "was a living reality, but in retrospect it contains a lot of the ideas" that make the online journal what it is.

Dan's essay provides what he hopes to be a helpful and accurate corrective to some ways in which modern and postmodern thinkers have narrated the history of the west, particularly their linking of Renaissance humanism with later Enlightenment thought and its ongoing effects. He spends considerable time on Erasmus, but eventually moves into a discussion of "sacrament as sign" and Baudrillard's postmodern critique of signs. In light of this discussion, Dan offers Christian humanism as a response to the modern-postmodern problematic.

20 February 2006

hanging on

hanging on

I've taken on an additional class for a week or two while a colleague is out with an illness, so things are a bit busier than they were already. I'm also in the midst of a cycle of paper grading. Unless I start blogging in order to get away from grading, there won't be much going on around here for a bit.

16 February 2006

lucke on faith

lucke on faith

Glenn Lucke over at Common Grounds Online has some good, challenging thoughts on faith within the context of community.

While I'm mentioning Glenn, I'll add that that Common Grounds, the book he wrote with Ben Young, is a great read - a kind of Socratic dialogue regarding the truth of the Gospel. I finished it last week and would recommend it, especially for college students, seekers, and those new to the faith.

12 February 2006

first snow of 2006

first snow of 2006

After an uneventful (weather-wise) and unusually warm January, the month of February has socked us with, at the moment, 15 inches of snow, with flakes still coming down.

We're stuck here at home for the morning at least, trying to shovel ourselves out bit by bit. We'll see later, I suppose, whether or not the university will be holding classes tomorrow, though, personally, I'm all for a snow day!

11 February 2006

presbytery and church plant

presbytery and church plant

The initial meeting of the new Philadelphia City Presbytery is this morning at Pilgrim PCA (formerly OPC) in the Roxborough section of the city.

The old Presbytery was too large numerically and covered too broad of an area, making it difficult to work together missionally and as a cohesive church over such a geographically large and sociologically diverse region. Thus, as of the first day of this year, the old Philadelphia Presbytery split three ways into Philadelphia Metro West, Philadelphia City, and Eastern Pennsylvania Presbyteries, a split that was approved last year by the 2005 PCA General Assembly.

We'll be attending the opening worship service, which begins at 8:15am. The homily will be delivered by the Rev. Lance Lewis (of Christ Liberation Fellowship, PCA), with music provided by Paul S. Jones (music director at Tenth PCA) and Ruth Naomi Floyd. I hope we get a good turnout of local PCA folks.

An exciting part of the Presbytery meeting will be a presentation on a new church venture, City Church - a plant co-sponsored by Redeemer PCA in NYC and the Philadelphia Presbytery. The church will have a university-facing focus and be pastored by the Rev. Tuck Bartholomew, who will also be received into the Philadelphia City Presbytery at today's meeting.

Tuck was my InterVarsity staff worker when I was in college, while he was attending Westminster Theological Seminary, and I'll be glad to see him back in Philadelphia. He's also a regular contributor to Common Grounds Online, including this recent entry regarding City Church. Laurel, Claire, and I are prayerfully considering what role we might have in this new work and look forward to learning more about it.

08 February 2006

busy busy

busy busy

In case you've been wondering about the lack of substantive blogging, it's a matter of being too busy (five classes, freshman advising, core curriculum Advisory Board, Core faculty meetings every other week, Arts and Sciences Technology committee, Judicial Board, Funding Board, departmental webmaster, Bible study, etc.).

I also have had two papers accepted at conferences and need to finish a proposal for a journal article. The one conference paper is finished already (on antique and Christian ethics), but the other one still needs to be completed (on the influence of Suarez in Reformed scholasticism).

If blogging seems sparse in coming weeks, that's all part of the explanation. Well, that, and I've nothing much to say. And late winter malaise.

05 February 2006

toddler prayers

toddler prayers

An overly tired Claire threw a pretty raucous tantrum just as we were trying to get her down for the night, including everything from shredding tissues to expressing a desire for our untimely deaths.

Actually, death has been a recent preoccupation, ranging from finally figuring out what happened to Bambi's mother to dreams of ravenous snow wolves killing bad men. One would think we've been letting her watch slasher films or the like, but this is almost entirely her own imagination. I think, however, that we've managed to finally get across the idea of "inanimate objects," which, I hope, will help us avoid those uneasy looks we would get from restuarant servers when Claire held up her favorite blanket and announced that, sadly, it's dead.

At any rate, she finally calmed down this evening to the "low whimper" stage, accompanied by eye-rubbing and blanket cuddling. As she curled up into bed I began to pray with her, but she stopped me, saying, "I want to say my own prayer."

"Ok, that's great. Go ahead."

"Keep watch, dear Lord," she began, "with those who sleep this night. And may it snow during the night and may we wake up. And mommy and daddy wake up too. And we all go outside and make a snowman under your loving care. And may God bless us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen."

"That was a beautiful prayer, Claire," I said.

"Wait," she interrupted, "I'm not done...and may the stars shine in the sky, so that their light shines in our eye...ummm."

"You know, Claire, prayers don't have to rhyme," I suggested.

"Oh, ok. I'm done." She looked at me for a moment and then began to cry.

"What's wrong, sweetheart?" I asked.

"I don't want to grow up. I want to always, always stay a little girl!" She fell over and sobbed into her pillow.

I rubbed her back. "You're not going to grow up for a long time, Claire..."

"But I don't want to!"

I decided to try a different approach, "Why don't you want to grow up?"

"I don't want to grow up because Jesus loves the little children and I want Jesus to still love me," she sobbed.

"Oh, sweetheart," I smiled at her, "Jesus loves grown-ups too, just as much as he loves little girls." The sobs subsided. "Now go to sleep," I said before giving her a goodnight kiss and shutting the door.

Of course, if the past week is any indication, Claire will awaken and silently slip downstairs at 6am or so and go back to sleep in some other location, later to be disclosed. So far we've found her in the morning asleep under a desk, behind a recliner, on our floor, on a step, and in the dog's bed. While we've discouraged this, the prospect of waking up to a new round of "where's Claire" does keep life interesting.

03 February 2006

nobody bakes a cake...

nobody bakes a cake...

...as tasty as a Tastykake. Tastykakes are a Philadelphia-based food and have always been a favorite treat of mine, especially the chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing, going back to my childhood.

It used to be that Tastykakes were only available in the greater Philadelphia region, so that when we traveled far enough away from home, they gradually disappeared from convenience stores (only to be displaced by rows of weird stuff like pork rinds). Of course, the same used to be true of the Pennsylvanian German snack of pretzels.

I've always enjoyed it when I've traveled and run across sandwich shops claiming to sell real "Philadelphia style cheesesteaks." So far I've resisted the urge to corner the shopkeeper, identify myself as a Philadelphian, and demand to inspect their cheesesteaks.

So I'm curious. Do you all have Tastykakes where you live? Can you find pretzels other than the ubiquitous Rold Gold (which barely count in terms of quality)? How about Philly cheesesteaks? Scrapple anyone?

Let me know in the comments which of these Philly treats you can (or can't) find in your region.