Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wishful thinking?

"'The Last Judgement' is not a terror. In the truth of Christ it is the most wonderful thing that can be proclaimed to men and women. It is a source of endlessly consoling joy to know, not just that the murderers will finally fail to triumph over their victims, but that they cannot in eternity even remain the murderers of their victims. The eschatological doctrine of the restoration of all things has these two sides: God's Judgement, which puts things to rights, and God's kingdom, which awakens to new life."

J├╝rgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004 paperback edition), p.255.

I wish I could believe the above statement. It really is attractive. But despite reading Moltmann and Barth over the last two or three weeks, I cannot shake off my doubts about the lack of real grounding for such hopes of universal salvation. What's more, the practical implications of universalism are rarely if ever discussed. Am I missing a trick here, or is universalism just as open to the charge of fatalism as double predestination?

One of my professors here at PTS suggests that the church should teach neither particular redemption nor universalism. Rather, it should admit the tension within the biblical witness, and simply testify to the grace of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. My problem with this idea is that the church (and all sections of the church), as far as I understand church history, has always taught one or the other of these two positions. To announce that we just don't know would be a novel development in confession, if not in theology as such. (Theologians do theology. I'm not sure if churches really do theology. If anything, they just formulate creeds and confessions.)

Safe to write, I think, that if Moltmann and Barth are correct then my "call" to Christian ministry is further in doubt. I'd rather tell people about such a gospel while making as much money as possible. Of course, I'd make the money so that I could give it away to the poor and needy.

Beard

Yes, I am growing a beard. This has nothing to do with Burt Reynolds. It has nothing to do with being careless, or lazy, or tired with keeping up appearances. I just reckon that if I can't grow a beard in America, where can I grow a beard, right?

After May 2007 I will enter a life which demands a perennial clean shaven, shirt, tie, slacks (or flannels!) and sports jacket look. It's now or never for the scruffy beard look. Folks here just love it.

Independently, two or three friends suggested the idea. One good friend offered me a seven point plan to growing a beard (he asked me not to publish it). I can simplify the plan without fear of breaking my promise: don't shave for at least two weeks, and then take stock. Another friend suggests four weeks is required.

I do not intend to publish any pictures. You will all have to act cute if you wish to see my progress. If I shave in the next two or three weeks, I promise to take a picture before and after. Whether or not I publish is another matter entirely.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving

Travelled to NYC early Thanksgiving Day (23rd Nov) for the 80th Macy Parade. The weather was wet, windy, cold. The parade lasted maybe two and a bit hours. But it was a genuine American experience - I was glad I made the effort to get up at 5am to make the journey. Highlights? Enjoyed some really good company (there were 5 of us). Saw Julie Andrews (the hills are alive with the sound of music), Miss USA 2006 (below) and Gloria Estefan (help, help, the rhythm is going to get me). Snoopy, Garfield, Big Bird, and Santa Claus all made appearances too.
Later in the day I spent time with friends over a Thanksgiving meal. Quite simply the best Thanksgiving meal I've ever enjoyed. The turkey was cooked to perfection, the cheesy mash was exquisite, the pie was delicious (it should have been, at least the one I bought - it was $15!). And the dinner party included several people who are becoming excellent friends.

Yesterday I went forest trail walking somewhere in New Jersey. I was told not to expect any wild life, apart from the odd black bear. I think my guide was joking - but she said they were very rare, and not as dangerous as grizzlies.

All in all, a great couple of days. Tomorrow I'm back to WGT Shedd on the atonement, Moltmann's The Coming of God, and I'll have to read some more Barth too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Atonement

Here is love, vast as the ocean
Loving kindness as a flood
When the prince of life our ransom
Shed for us His precious blood
Who His love will not remember
Who can cease to sing His praise
He will never be forgotten
Throughout heaven’s eternal days

On the mount of crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide
From the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide
Grace and love like mighty rivers
Flowed incessant from above
Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Nerf Wars Escalate in Alex

The following pictures provide evidence of a dramatic development. They capture the sad reality of Nerf War in Alex Hall. The innocent suffer. The combatants dehumanise themselves. Reports suggest skirmishes are spreading to other parts of Alex.
Dealing in Nerf arms has become a way of life on Alex 4.

Two militiamen, suspected to be leading players in the war.

A dealer shows off his wares.

Soldiers guard territory day and night.

It is too early to predict how events will unfold. All that is certain remains the common feature of all such conflict: there can be no winners until peace returns to Alex 4.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Dalglish in Texas


Kenny Dalglish used to be one of my heroes, not just because he was from Glasgow, and had great hair, but because he played football real good. So, I was interested to read this story about his son, Paul, commenting on why he moved to Texas:

"I had always wanted to come to the States, not just for the football but for the lifestyle... And the football out here is deadly serious. That's why I wanted to come here before I was 30, I didn't want people to accuse me of coming out here to take the money."

I can empathise with Dalglish. I didn't come to the States just for the theology, but for the lifestyle too. Alas, theology here is not deadly serious - at times, it's a bit of a joke. The scholarship money is good, but it's not that good. Soon, I'll have to start working for a living again.

And, I'm still waiting for my parents to use Skype...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Midterms

I spent Tuesday night watching the results from the Midterm elections on CNN. It was fascinating.

And, I watched this clip live on The Daily Show election night special. Listen out for the line to end all politico-religious comedy lines 'We were this close to Jesus coming back.' (The Colbert Report is a spin off from The Daily Show.)

The thing is: it's all so close to the truth. In the context of seminary life, this is especially the case. Politics is so married to religion over here that you don't need to ask anyone whether they are Democratic or Republican. You just know by what church they go to, or don't go to.

On Wednesday afternoon I also happened to catch the President's press conference announcing Rumsfeld's resignation. Rumsfeld went to Princeton University - there's a picture of him as a student in one of the local pub-restaurants. I write 'pub-restaurants' because you don't find pure pubs in Princeton. Strange but true - if you go for a drink, you sometimes need to order food just to get a table just to get some beer.

If I ever settle in the US, I'd want to head west. Montana, I think, away from all the political madness of the East coast. Any thoughts on which US state I should aim for?

PS - I've actually started writing drafts for papers and stuff. I'm overwhelmed. My first efforts are concentrating on a paper looking at Shedd's philosophy of history, linking this to his traducianism, and his defence of the Confessional standards of the Presbyterian church in the 1890s.

Friday, November 03, 2006

One of the Family

One of the Family
A sermon for the Kirkin’ O’ the Tartans service
First Presbyterian Church, Beaufort, SC
October 29, 2006