Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Email Conversation Continued: Absolute Truth and Separation of Languages

Eugene to Me

Here are a few questions that would help me out greatly:

In your own terms, are you a postmodernist (and thereby and anti-modernist)?
How do you define postmodernism succinctly in 2-3 sentences?

Me to Eugene

2) I think of postmodernism as a movement (and not necessarily or primarily as a theoretical construct) that seeks to "deconstruct" the modern self, a modern Cartesian self founded, theoretically upon the notion of the individual's power of rationality housed in his intellect, his "cogito", and founded historically as a reaction against the political and religious tyranny of the established traditions of the time. The rippling effects of this new self went quite far, reaching through 400 years of history and to every tradition and discipline. Postmoderns seek to unmask this self for what it is.

The direction in which postmoderns end up heading is not only purposefully left open in response to modern sociological tendencies to limit their arena of action to their own pre-concieved goals, purposes and agendas, but are also simply attempting to come to terms with the world and it political and cultural conditions in which they find themselves, conditions that arose through those rippling effects of modernity, but have now presented to us a world very different from the one we knew in the "modern world", conditions primarily established by mass media and hyper-consumer capitalism and described as information/choice bombardment to the extent that individual consumerist choices loose meaning due partially to the sheer numbers of choices available and also to a postmodern's annoyance with the agendas attached to the availabilities. Heiddeger said that in this sense "postmodernity" is really just the beginning of modernity, signalling the completion of its project, a world that appears as a powerful man-built machine that runs mechanically and autonomously.

1) OK, so that was two succinct paragraphs rather than sentences sorry. As for whether or not I'm a postmodern, I'd say that, in terms of what is described above, the answer is yes. It is, however, for me more complex than that. Postmoderns are against the modern construct in which every action is pre-conceived in accordance to an agenda. This last sentence in itself, however, does not necessarily delineate modernism from anything else. The problem with the modern agenda is that its very agenda itself is a pre-set agenda; it's agenda is to establish a pre-set agenda as the agenda, specifically a utopian agenda in which through individualized and purely cognitive powers of reason and knowledge man establishes the basis for a hope in the powers of technology to control the world and nature. Out of this ability and power to control comes the future Utopia.

The foundation upon which this entire construct is built is the ancient Greek polis. The political arena of the Greek polis was one in which free men were free to display their gifts and powers, to perform mighty deeds that would carry their name through the generations and thereby provide that powerful free man with a measure of immortality. This arena of the Greek polis, however, was also itself built upon the foundation of a great, bloody and heroic fight for that very freedom. In other words, the Greek tradition is one whose purpose and/or end is a measure of a man's freedom, both in itself and for the purpose of providing an arena in which a man can display his gifts and skills to woohh folks.

All that to say that I identify with Postmodernity in the sense that it is seeking to come to terms and have some peace with our contemporary conditions, which provide us with a lot of tension and problems, but the Greek foundation of postmodernity is really no different from the Greek foundation of modernity. In other words, the modern agenda was that a Utopia be established through individual cognitive powers of reason and knowledge, whereas in the postmoderns you can actually still see ultimately the same (or a similar) agenda for the same Greek notions of freedom and glory (like Achilles), albeit hopefully in a form and/or medium that more purely resembles the original Greek.

To summarily answer your question, therefore, I could in a sense describe myself as a postmodern, but do not see myself as having any allegience to "postmodernism". My allegience is to God, and my end and/or purpose, at least as I intend and/or hope, is His glory, rather than my own, which cannot be planned or controlled. My own glory, however, is the very foundation upon which the Greek polis was stayed in motion. The Greek gift becomes my "Achilles heel". God's gift, however, is "my" salvation, enacted in the context of an interdepent community rather than in the context of rivalry and competition that is essential to the continued running of the Greek polis.

So in that sense, while I just ignore a postmoderns spirit of competition and rivalry, I can try to take his deconstruction of the modern individualized self as an oppurtunity to re-open the doors to true Christian community, allowing their deconstruction to inform me where possible about the issues present in the church, such as (as mentioned) our tendency to interact with scripture on a cognitive level, to try to reconcile with sin in the privacy of our own closet, to separate worship into either an invigorating emotional experience for me or a good lecture from a smart (cognitively developed) guy, the tendency (built into the education system) for the pastor to run the church as if he were the CEO of a business, or the tendency to separate justice from the very body of Christ into a "parachurch organization", as David Fitch refers to them in his blog and his book.

I hope that helps. Thanks Eugene,


Me To Eugene Again

A link from my blog, which itself has another link to another blog. A little more articulation that should help clear things up a bit, I hope, at lest in regards to one particular issue within the big picuture (Expository Preaching). Again, take your time, and no response necessary, at least not right away or anything.


Eugene to Me

I appreciated the debate that was raging, and yes, you should be a little more careful with your choice of words. Often times, I found myself thinking, wow, Jason has some great logic skills and is able to argue with convincing reason. But then I thought... oops, isn’t Jason opposed to much of this type of rationale truth-getting/proclaiming? You’ll have to remember that the post-modern position is one that is at least humble, one that admits to no claim to any absolute knowledge. Your claims appear to be just as absolute as those that you are arguing against. This is the perennial postmodern quagmire.

I think you’re getting there. I feel your passion, and I resonate with many of your frustrations. Keep searching... don’t get stuck in a particular ideological position, listen to the Holy Spirit, and don’t depend so much on what “makes sense” or “feels right” (both are not necessarily wrong epistemologies in my opinion, they are simply abused when embraced absolutely). Stay humble, consider others’ positions carefully, even being open to your enemies’ words (I hope I’ll never be considered an enemy by you). ...

All that to say, I believe that you also bring something quite unique to our group, a voice that needs to be heard... alongside the many stories, narratives and threads of life that weave and interweave in our shared journey.

no reserve,no retreat,no regret...eugene

Me to Eugene

You mention that in my identifying in the way that I do with postmodernity I should not hold onto any idea of truth-proclaiming. Well, first, as I said, I don't have an allegience to postmodernism. I just see it as helpful in dealing with the construct of modernity. Part of that construct is the idea of absolute truth, which, quite literally did not exist prior to modernity (and therefore is obviously not necessarily tied to Christianity, as we tend to assume; in fact the concept of absolute truth is necessarily tied to modernity), an idea that became part of the construct to help further the modern agenda of a universal Utopia. Absolutism and universalism are interdependent. I don't think that the post-moderns were against any notion of truth. From the moderns I think they get criticized for placing themselves in a quagmire in which they never entered.

Also, to adress another epistemoligical issue that arose in this past email. When I say that things "resonate" with me, I do not mean to say that they fit with my experiences of the world. I'm thinking of how a Medieval bell would ring from atop a belltower (causing music to resonate in the town and nearby countryside), calling the faithful to worship.

Now, I do not consider you an enemy. I consider you a brother in Christ. When I get irritated with "Nick Hill" during a comment conversation to a blog, its because I believe his statement to be a common one that is extremely unhelpful, and even destructive, or at least contribuiting to some destructive forces. Not that my irritation isn't destcructive. I am working on that. As for your fear that, out of my possibly viewing you as an enemy, my possibly not wanting to be your "disciple" anymore, it isn't true. I am still interested in learning from you in a strucured way, if you yourself are still interested in maintaining a relationship that would allow for such an education. I still see you as an elder in Christ who loves the church, me, our group, and the world, someone from whom I can learn a thing or two about leadership of a group of Christians. Again, the ultimate techton of the moderns and postmoderns is different from the eschatology of Christ...


Me to Eugene Again

Eugene, I should have explained something else in this past email. See, you said I should be more careful about my choice of words, and it seemd that the root of that was an issue of humility. Then, based on what you were saying, it seemd that you were associating pride with absolute truth, saying that my claims appear just as absolulte as those against which I am arguing, meaning there was pride behind them, or at least the appearance of pride.

I then responded by saying that postmoderns, so far as I can tell, get words about truth put into their mouths based on what they did have to say about the modern construct of absolute truth. In this context, to a degree, I was separating the issue of pride from the issue of absolute truth, even though in a way pride is the root of the problem with absolute truth. The reason I was thinking of it this way is because it is my position that the modern construct of absolute truth has to be truthfully broken down in order to get anywhere these days, with the understanding that absolute truth was a term/idea/concept/phrase that didn't enter the scene of our history until modernity itself. There was of course, however, "truth" before that. There could or could not have been (our could or could not be now) pride in such truth.

It was this kind of truth, or something like it, that I intended to speak into absolute truth through my email, and a similar kind of truth that I intended to speak into "expostion" and/or "analysis" in my blog link. This kind of truth might be localized (one way that it is localized is in ME), but that doesn't exclude it's relevance to places outside it locality (OTHERs cried at church when I cried while trying to share my story). This kind of truth might be contingent upon some story and/or history (one such contingency is upon MY story), but that doesn't exlude it from participation in greater truths that have been around longer and/or will be around for longer still. It is certainly not systematic, but that doesn't exclude it's possibility of association with topics and/or issues outside itself. It appears out of a horizon of mystery, but that doesn't mean that it has no form. In my estimation this is a humbling truth, or at least a truth that lends itself to a humbling fall after the building up of the construct of modernity, which presumes an abstracted, neutral and objective rising above the limits of bodies and locations. That is the very way that you end up with truths that are "absolute" and "universal".

I associate the construct of modernity with the Tower of Babel. Interestingly, it is a matter of regular old-fashioned recorded histroy (I'm not just making crap up) that one of the fascinations of modernity was to build a universal language (the story of Babel, in which man sought to reach UP to the heavens, ends with the separation of languages), in other words one not born out of a particular place, culture or location.

Back to an oldie: "The thought that a system could become the material refuge in which architecture protects itself against the negative effects of wonder and alienation has come to nought. The desire for total domination of space, has proved impossible. The desire to integrate in its own presumed totality a light that can only come from outside is the hubris upon which every system has perished. Architecture as life is perhaps impossible without some system, but Hejduk's architecture is not dealing with unambiguous facts or with serial information. Rather it is fired with a resistance to and separation from a dubious kind of order, without making a system out of this very resistence..." - Daniel Libeskind, p. 16, intro. to Mask of Medusa, by John Hejduk.

That is to say, maybe I should be more considerate of other's emotions and/or feelings in my choice of words. Maybe I could be more gentle and tactful. It is, however, my goal to "deconstruct" a self that has been being built for at least 400 years. That's bound to hurt. "Wise as a snake, gentle as a dove". Don't really know how to do that yet, I suppose.

Also, you said, "I fear that predispositions and categories are influencing the way you relate to us." Who's the "us"? Moderns? And what do you mean when you mention categories there? I have a feeling there's somehing behind that that I'm missing, but I don't know what it is really.

Also, when you mention "a voice that needs to be heard...alongside many stories, narratives and threads...", I wonder there what you mean too. When I think of the intermingling stories of modernity and post-modernity, I don't just think of the fact that some folks have been immersed in more of a modern culture, and some in more of a post-modern culture; where both deserve to be heard, respected and/or realized. I think of a violent tension between the forces of modernity and post-modernity present in our world, our culture, and in each of us; tension that exists in a world whose basic operation and/or culture grows to be more and more in accord with the conditions (not necessarily or primarily the theoretical construct) of postmodernity. In a way, I think of the reminder from one of my favorite Architects who said that a man who claims a religion but does not practice it is impoverished beyond compare. He then was talking about the need for a modern architecture at an earlier time of similar tension. In our case the parallel would be more like practicing a religion but claiming an entirely different one.


Me to Eugene Again Again

In other words, Eugene, considering Heiddeger's (sp. ?) statement that post-modernism does not signal the end of the modern world but rather the completion of the modern project, and therefore the beginning of the modern world, and considering the bigger picture involved in that statement, I don't think of post-modernism as anti-modernist. Just for clarification; it was supposed to be implied before. Also, I don't necessarily think of the problem with someone's actually speaking forth their position as pride. I think that since the modern Tower of Babel project has ceased, or is ceasing, before which God separated the langages here below, no one understands what anyone else is saying. It all sounds like babble. To the point where a friend of mine from Expression Mondays, around the time that I first met him, started going to church again because he looked up the phrases, "Ash Wednesday"and "Shrove Tuesday". Which is funny, because I haven't the foggiest idea what "Shrove Tuesday" is :)


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Modernity and Post-Modernity: Expository Preaching

Recently I have been following David Fitch's blog The Great Giveaway. Now, I'm no trained pastor who gives sermon's every Sunday or nothin', but I found this particular post on the topic of Expository Preaching, along with the dialogue in the comments section, to be fascinating. I was one of the participants, and would like to share the relevant aspects of the conversation in which I participated. Please allow me to indulge. It sort of picks up mid-conversation, but I think one can follow the basic point, and could go to the link if you so desire. Please feel free to comment on our comments if you feel lead :)

Nick Hill said...

I just do not understand the false dichotomy between expository preaching and community. When the church gathers to hear the word preached, they gather as a community to hear from God and to live as a community in fellowship, mission, and service.

The early church as well as the first century Jewish culture, very much practiced expository preaching. A person would read a portion of Scripture, and then the teacher would explain what the text means. At this point, the people could ask him questions. I indeed think that this last aspect is missing today, but expository preaching is not the problem.

Here are some examples of "expository preaching" from Scripture:

Paul's charge to Timothy: "2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-- with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Timothy 4:2-3).

"26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road-- the desert road-- that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian {27 That is, from the upper Nile region} eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, "Go to that chariot and stay near it." 30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. 31 "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him" (Acts 8:26-31).



Gordon Hackman said...

I'm not sure that the scriptural examples you give of expository preaching really prove what you want them to. It seems to me like you might be reading something into these passages. The Timothy passage certainly does tell us to preach the Word with patience and care, but it seems to me like it might be an anachronism to read expository preaching into it.

As for the Acts passage about Philip, I think that one could just as likely be seen as encouraging narrative preaching as expository. In order for Philip to make sense of the passage for the Ethiopian, he would have to explain to him the narrative of God's work in the world which culminates in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Outside of that narrative the text from Isaiah makes no sense at all.

I don't think Dave's point is to completely reject expository preaching or the necessity for doing the exegetical work necessary to understand scripture well. His point is that we need more than this, that the work of exegesis and historical-critical scholarship should be subservient to the end of inviting people into the narrative world of the scripture and letting it become their story as well. Only then can it truly make sense to them. Otherwise, we are simply dispensing information to people whose minds are shaped by other narratives (in our case, the stories of secular modernity) which distort the way they hear the text or keep it from making sense.

Peace to you,

Nick Hill said...

If Expository preaching can be defined as:

"the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers" [Haddon Robinson, "Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, Second edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 21].

Then, I think that it can still be done narratively, in the sense that the individual passage is always explained and illustrated in the context of God's overarching story. I think why myself and others are so concerned with the undermining of expository preaching is that people will then take what they want to preach (whether that is N.T. Wright's newest idea, or their own new idea), rather than wrestling with the biblical text as given by God and then expounding that text to the people of God so that they can deal with God. The above passages of Scripture are expository in that the preacher is explaining what the text means so that the receipiants understand what God is saying to them.

Pastor Rod said...

You said, "I think why myself and others are so concerned with the undermining of expository preaching is that people will then take what they want to preach..., rather than wrestling with the biblical text as given by God and then expounding that text to the people of God so that they can deal with God."

I've come to that conclusion myself. The reason that many are so resistant to the problems with expository preaching is that they cannot imagine anything better to take its place.
But those are really two different issues. Even if we can't think of anything better, we should acknowledge the limitations of a particular method.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the church expository preaching has been canonized. And these people are convinced that a pastor using this method is proclaiming "the very words of God."

Just admitting the limitations of expository preaching would be a giant step in the right direction.


Nick Hill said...
For your interest: I have been expositing the book of John evangelistically with unchurched non-Christian youth: Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, and nominal Christians the two past years and they keep coming back for more. Over food, we study the passage for two weeks in small groups and then on the third week I will usually preach from the passage. We have about 50 to 70 youth coming out. To see some of these youth two years later and how they have grown in their knowledge of God's word and have been transformed is amazing. I attribute this to nothing in me, but, I believe, because of their continual exposure to God's word in small groups and in the messages they have been transformed:

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Food for thought: "There is, of course, more than one valid approach to biblical exposition. When the preacher surveys a long section of biblical text, he is able to expound on large ideas and present the grand flow of biblical logic in a panoramic way. When he deals with smaller sections in more careful detail, he can home in on specific issues and explain them in greater depth. There are advantages and disadvantages to both styles. Both methods have a legitimate place in biblical preaching" [John MacArthur, forward, in "The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept by Mark Dever (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 11].

Gordon Hackman said...
Nick,Thanks for your response to me. I don't think we are that far apart in reality. I certainly believe in doing serious exegesis and the other work necessary to understand scripture and I think Dave does too. Eugene Peterson has some wonderful stuff on this in his latest book "Eat This Book" where he reminds us that scripture is given to us in the form of a story, but also says that we should love the biblical text enought to do the best exegesis we can and understand the words as acurately as we can. I agree.

I think one of the big issues for Dave, though, is the difference between preaching and teaching. Dave believes that preaching should be primarily descriptive and invitational. That is, it describes the world of scripture and the world made possible through Christ and invites the hearer to submit to Christ and enter that world. It seeks to provide the hearer with a counter-imagined world over and against the picture of the world that we are continually bombarded with by the forces that shape our culture, such as the media, advertising, etc. Teaching, on the other hand is the place where we delve deeper into the text and explain to people the exegetical, historical, cultural aspects of the text.

I attend the church where Dave ministers and we have an hour before the service where Dave explains the passage and deals with the exegetical, historical issues of the text. Then, during the main service, the preaching is descriptive and invitational.

Concerning this statement:"I think why myself and others are so concerned with the undermining of expository preaching is that people will then take what they want to preach (whether that is N.T. Wright's newest idea, or their own new idea), rather than wrestling with the biblical text as given by God and then expounding that text to the people of God so that they can deal with God."

I think one of Dave's major points is that even when we do all the exegetical, historical, grammatical work, etc. that it is still possible for an agenda to be snuck into the preaching, and it is even more dangerous if we believe that having done all of the work makes us immune to this possibility.

Peace to you,

Nick Hill said...
Gordon,Thanks for your clarification. Yes, I agree that we have to be aware of the sinfulness of our own hearts and our unconscious bias that we bring to the text that would set an agenda for our preaching instead of the Biblical text itself. Also, I think that with what Dave is doing bridges both worlds well provided that people go to both. I perfer both in one. However, it sounds like your church is doing some excellent things. May God richly bless you in the important ministry you are doing,


Jason Hesiak said...
Joshua, your "community as a unity of individuals, not some sociological 'otherness'" reminds me of the Adam Smith malady. Pastor Rod alreay addressed your points, but I wanted to mention that. It's one of the very things to which the body of Christ should run counter. Also makes me wonder who the angels of the churches are to which Christ addressed his letters in Revelations.

Nick Hill, to say that the early church practiced expository preaching, sorry if this sounds harsh, to me sounds rediculous. I mean, I guess if you think of expository preaching one certian way (a modern way, sort of), I could see how you would say that. But if you made that statement to Dionysius the Aeropogate, he would look at you with a "huh???" kind of dumbfoundedness. I too get excited when I hear of folks of other religions and cultures engaging with you in the scriptures, but at the same time I get weary that they are just being turned into Adam Smiths, with a Christian twist.

I mean, you said we "have to be aware of the sinfulness in our own hearts and our uncious bias", but that very phrase itself could just be a getting off the hook of modernization. What would you say to one of my favorite quotes (from a friend of mine), "Lets leave the analysis for the afterlife"? What does that mean? What implications does it have for the nature of learning and living, keeping in mind that all modern learning (and much of its very living) is analytic like disecting a pig ("When I am formulated, sprawling on a pin / When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall /Then how should I presume?" - T.S. Eliot) rather than synthetic? We are new CREATIONS. Where does the analytic urge come from?

Nick Hill said...

The early church, in Jesus' time, taking its influence from its Jewish synagogue heritage would read a Scripture and then someone would explain what it meant (John Stott has written on this). How could this be modernistic? How could studying the Word of God in small groups make someone into a "Christian" Adam Smith? This is ridiculous!!

Jason Hesiak said...

I definitely said that too harshly. Sorry. I can be that way sometimes (in other words, an ass). The essential distinction that I was pointing out, I think, is found in the idea of analysis that undercuts expository preaching. A lot of what has made me squirm in the pew when I've heard expository preaching is that its M.O. is to, like a modern scientist who assumes a certian abstraction, neutrality and objectification, plow into the scriptures with the unbeatable team of knowledge and a scalpel, with the pre-set aim of dissection and the help of a powerful non-local (totalizing) anesthetic. Ancients might have "explained" the scriptures, but we have to pay attention to how energies and scenes of action have been transformed and translated, and what voices and powers have been at work doing the translating and transforming.

In other words, just because back then they "explained" the scripture doesn't make that the same thing as the expository preaching that we now know. The Rennaissance (the time of transition from ancient to modern) artists who learned about human anatomy by dissecting the body had to sneak around in the morgues late at night because the body was considered in a way sacred, not to be plowed into the way we now regularly and habitually plow into bodies of humans and scriptural text.

I think a lot of times, in our discussions on "expository preaching" or whatever else and "narratives", its easy to miss the boat while reading it's name on the back as it sails away.

You seemed to hint at the need for translation when included in your quoted definition of expository preacing ("the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers") was the idea that it is contexualized.

Problem is that embedded in the very language of that definition is the idea of reading the name of the boat while standing on the dock instead of IN the boat, where the party is at (where the narrative is being lived). I could be off on my stated judgement in the last sentence, because the meaning of that definition does depend so much on its context, the overall message of the rest of the book in which it appears. But in general, the words "concept", "personality", "application", and in some cases even "transmission" for me raise big huge modern warning flags. Flags that say, "Hey you. Get off the boat. Go stand on the dock where you can see it better. Know it better. Communicate to OTHERS about it more clearly. Conveniently separate yourself from it like the inherent separation between an idea and a reality." A modern concept BELONGS to and inside of a modern self (mind), which then assumes the right to plow away with the scalpel. Problem is, then the boat sinks. No wonder we miss it!

Jason Hesiak said...
Oops, hit "log in a publish: on accident. Sorry about that. Meant to "explain" a bit more what I mean by "concept" and it's connection to "analysis". The very grounds that allow for analysis (the mode of expository preacing) are the same grounds that allow for the separation between idea (well, concept) and reality, mind and body. No one would ever "operate on" a body until they pre-supposed their sepration from it. That's the anesthetic. There's no empathy in analysis; but it is the very basis by which a narrative is lived out, written or "experienced". How many times have we cried in a movie theater? How bout in the middle of a sermon that is preached expositorily? This empahty similar to compassion. There's no compassion in exposition. They contradict each other.

Literacy [which, like "conception", analysis or exposition, requires a rising up OFF of the page] creates very much simpler kinds of people than those that develop in the complex web of ordinary tribal and oral societies [the kind of societies to which you refer in the early church in which they would "explain" the scriptures]. For the fragmented man createes the homogenized Western world, while oral societies are made up of people differentiated, not by their specialist skills or visible marks, but by their unique emotional mixes. The oral man's inner world is a tangle of complex emotions and feelings that he Western practical man has long ago eroded or suppressed within himself in the interest of effeciency and practicality." - Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 50

And David, I have patience. I know you're a busy guy. I'm just grateful that you take the time to write these blogs!


Jason Hesiak said...
Nick,A passage for a kick-start: "Jesus was certainly no theologian in the western sense of the word, beceause he was a Jew. Like the prophets before him he gave concrete biblical answers to the pressing questions of daily life - poverty, payment of taxes, feauding between relatives or colleagues, and daily subsistence. HE WOULD CERTAINLY HAVE DETESTED AS ARROGANT BLASPHEMY ANY ATTEMPT TO UNRAVEL AND NEATLY SYSTEMATIZE THE MYSTERIES OF GOD. The same holds true for Paul, whose letters addressed very concrete, contemporary, and local problems, and whose style reveals unmistakably rabbinic thought FORMS and lets Parisaic dialogue patterns shimmer through. All of his responses, even the most well-reasoned, seem curiously fragmentary, and remain, in truly Jewish manner, open-ended..." - from Paul: Rabbi and Apostle, by Pinchas Lapide and Peter Stuhlmacher, quoted in Our Father Abraham, by Marvin R. Wilson.

Now, I'd like to partially ignore the part of the above quote about how back then their "expository preaching" was about ordinary, everyday, concrete life. It could easily be said that contemporary expository preaching is full of concrete addresses. So there are two buckets I'd like to draw from that passage. One is simply the unexposed pride and arrogance behind the myths of modernity that lead to its various forms of analysis, which include current expository preaching. That's why you can always sense a funny inner conflict in a humble pastor trying to preach expositorily.

The other is the passage's addressing of the FORM of ancient rabbinic "explanations" or dialogue (the form of something is where the translation and trasformation to which we must pay heed is apparent). The passage says that to us ancient forms of "explanation" seems curiously open-ended and "fragmentary". Interesting, because in the quote I provided previously by McLuhan, he referred to our contemporary society as "fragmented". Such funny and ironic grounds for miscommunication and misunderstanding are symptomatic of the problems that arise with modernity. McLuhan was referring to the modern mass of man's fragementing along the assembly line of the factory or printed page of the mechanical press.

When we now think of ancient forms of "explanation" as fragmentary, we are flaberghasted by certain practices that were normal for those ancient "tribal, oral" men and taken for granted. In their culture, they acutally had the Word of God IN them - memorized. When they spoke they re-membered (exposition is a dis-membering). A rabbi might make passing and hidden (to us) reference to a whole other part (or "fragment") of scripture that completes the meaning of his statement, but is not included in what is actually spoken aloud orally.

Obviously for someone who has the entire OT memorized this isn't a problem. For us moderns who rely like a wife on visual alphebets to "complete" us ("literate man", whose "book" is on his book shelf, "where it belongs", rather than IN him), we are left feeling empty and confused, or "fragmented". It is at the very place of our dis-location (blamed by McLuhan on the printing press, and blamed by me here on the necessary grounds for modern analysis), in seeing and realizing the wholeness (and holyness) implicit in ancient man's having the entire OT memorized, where a modern man comes face to face with his fragmenting.

It is up to our exposition and analysis to reach all the way to the full and total completion of the content and meaning of the text, so as to close off the SYSTEM, encompassing and completing our being for us, RATHER THAN the GOD who is the is the "content" of the "exposition". It is this systematization, grounded in OUR analysis and/or exposition ("study of a passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher") that the referenced passage claims Jesus would have "detested".

When a discussion's end is left open in the way of the ancients, the educational system is one based on mimesis (imitation). It's the doorframe around the opening that is left by the end-ing inherent in the nature of the dialogue. In ancient Jewish discipleship, common in Gallilee at the time of Jesus to which you made reference, the whole basis of the education system was that the "disciple", or Talmid (student) wanted to be just like the rabbi. I'm sure we've all heard the phrase "what would Jesus do" :) And I'm sure it also, at least to some degree and in some way, sounded cheap! That's because modern man is not seeking "completion" of his being by being like his rabbi (that was Jesus), but by his system arrived at by exposition and analysis. To a modern "WWJD", because all of the implications inherent in the phrase, sounds ingenuine (David mentions similar topics in his book). The unreconcilable difference between imitation and systematized knowldege (the very basis of modern education - certainly the way that I was educated) is similar to the previously noted contradiction between compassion and exposition.


Jason Hesiak said...
Also Nick,Not to differentiate between the "explanations" of the early church and those of contemporary "expository preaching" is to be Narcissistic. By that I don't mean arrogant. I mean not recognizing your own reflection in the differing ponds of ancient dialogue and contemporary exposition. You're hearing your own echo. "Explanation". "Explanation". Problem is, in the context of the myth of Narcissus, Echo is the wife of Pan. The Greek word Pan, meaning "all", is the root of the word that we know as "SYSTEM".

This is why I was talking about discipleship and systematization as contradicting way of completing our being; that we thirst like a wife after our systems to complete us. In other words, you hear yourself telling yourself that the "explanations" of ancient folks were "explanations", the "explanations" of contemporary "expostion" are "explanations". They're the SAME THING, right! Point being that through the ages of translation and transformation they have become two differnt reflecting pools which reflect two different images of man. Because the ancient echo seen in the ancient pool is left open, it leaves room for God to be the original image of the reflection. The origin of the modern echo is man's own urge to build the cave in which the echo can be enclosed.

Much of expository preaching is spent on the futile attempt to chisel our way out of the cave while remaining warmly and comfortably encolsed in the modern mythology that built it.


Pastor Rod said...
On a little lighter note. C. S. Lewis mentions something at the End of Surprised by Joy about the difference between "enjoyment" and "analysis." (He borrows this idea from someone else.) He says that it is not possible to enjoy something while we are evaluating it. This is a much simpler way to understand what Jason is talking about. When we analyze a text, we are placing ourselves above that text and treating it as an object. When we "enjoy" a text, we are allowing the text to change us.

Of course, both of these are important. But expository preaching tends to ignore (or render impossible) the experiencing of a text.

I don't mean this as any kind of a criticism of what Jason said. It was very useful. I just remember how confused I was when I first encountered McLuhan in college. I hope this helps to make the whole thing a little clearer.


Jason Hesiak said...
Thanks Pastor Rod. My friends often end up doing a lot of translating for me. Thanks; I like what you were saying. If you don't mind, however, I would like to make an adjustment. We are also being "changed" when we analyse the text. I think that's the whole point, why this is acutally an important topic. The question becomes what it is into which we are being changed. God doesn't stop moving just because we think we step outside onto the stillness of the archimedean point needed to do an analysis. In reality we don't reach any archimedian point. We just assume that the body and/or text stopped moving; we put it behind us in the past (we kill it), hence McLuhan's famouse photo in "the medium is the massage" of a horse-driven caravan being viewed in the rear-view mirror of a car.

And HEY! I thought I was being light and playful!

And FYI follks, as of my time of posting this blog, Nick has not yet responded...

From Dark to Light, A Personal Story

Below is a testimony I gave in church this morning, as mentioned in my previous post:

When I began to think and pray about the story I wanted to tell about one way that God brought me out of the darkness and into the light, a piece of the Hebrew scriptures came to mind. I pictured the Isrealites wondering through the wilderness, with Egypt in their dust and the promised land before them. I thought of the holiness of the tabernacle and how the social organization of the community was based on that. The “uclean”, those with leprosy or physical deformities for example, were always left on the outside of the camp. I thought of that social organization because, in that situation, when remembering back to my childhood, and in some ways a bit more recently, I could identify with the leapors who were cast out from the community.

As a kid I was the one who got picked on. Now, we all get picked on as kids, and I think we all generally get over it pretty much by the time we are in college. I’d say in that sense my story isn’t that much different from any one else’s. But I think, for me at least, such a starting point in life starts a train of history that takes on new masks over time. It might still be present later on even though you have healthy friendships and are no longer the guy who gets picked on.

As a kid, for me, it was REALLY bad. In some sense I was actually like those unclean Isrealites not allowed inside the camp. I was born with cleft lip and palette, leaving my lip scarred and deformed, and also my nose a bit crooked and funny looking. Both of those features for me were more noticeable when I was a kid than now, partially simply because now I have a mustache. Also partially because I’ve had some reconstructive surgery on my nose to help alleviate medical problems that came as a result of my deformities. As a kid I was also the short little runt who had to struggle mightily in every way just to be able to participate in all the things kids do. And some things I just couldn’t do. I couldn’t throw a football as far, for example. I certainly didn’t have the power to hit a baseball as far or throw it as hard, even though in little league I wanted to be a pitcher.

Now, so far you might think that my being cast out could have just been a misconception that I was making up in my head. I assure you, that was not it. I have plenty of memories of very hurtful things done to me by the kids in the neighborhood, whether intentionally hurtful or not. I do remember that, in general, I was the butt of all the jokes, some of which were more hurtful than others. One less intentionally hurtful thing I remember was one cold winter morning when a couple of older neighborhood bullies ran around the bus stop handing off to each other with me chasing them futily my funny-looking Redskins floppy toboggan with a fuzzy ball on the end. An example of a particularly scarring incident was when one of the kids in the neighborhood, the other short guy (but not as short as me) when we got off the bus followed me home wanting to fight me. And I assure you, it wasn’t because of anything I had said. Looking back on it, I now realize it was a power trip on his part. But at the time I did not understand that, and the lesson I came away with is that the world is an unpredictable monster out to eat me, hurt me, scratch me, and beat me down - all randomly and for no reason as if that was just the world’s purpose.

Around the time of the beginning of college is when I had the reconstructive surgery on my nose. Wrapped up in the same surgery was my jaw getting broken in four places and put back together with four metal plates and sixteen metal screws. Such things for me by that time weren’t so abnormal, and I was in Intensive Care for four days. Soon after that, when I went into the doctor for my checkup, he told me that he could “make my nose more symmetrical if I wanted”. By this point in my life, my answer to that was a hearty no. I wore my crooked nose and scarred lip like a badge of honor. I felt like I had been through a rough battle and come through standing, alive and but covered in blood. I think of the scene in Braveheart when the smaller, dirtier, under-fed, less-equipped army of Scotts unexpectedly defeated the great and vast English army. William Wallace is left standing tall, sword in the air, breathing heavily, yelling victory. More importantly, I think of the wounds of Christ on the cross. The blood runs down the wood of the cross, pours off of its edge and covers me as I sit at its foot.

This past year during our church’s intensive and community-centered leadership training, which we call “E4” (based on Ephesians 4: 11-16), during which time we focus as much on building healthy relationships as studying the Word, I came to realize that the train-wreck of my history was in fact still present in my life. Not so much in terms of my own not being accepted by my peers. I was no longer the butt of the jokes. I was no longer the short little runt. OK, not as much. And I certainly didn’t any longer experience so many of the hurtful things that filled my childhood. But what I discovered in prayer and community with God is that that train of pain had lead to my being an ass hole. Essentially judgemental, angry, bitter, isolated and alone, essentially. It was in the light of God’s love and community that God brought these painful parts of myself to the light, as gently asked me to begin correcting them.

One especially powerful time of this past year in E4 was at a weekend-long retreat with a famous speaker named Brennan Manning (author who wrote The Ragamuffin Gospel). He made it clear that he was not there to speak to anyone who had any illusions about themselves or God. He was there to speak to the tired, the weary, the broken-hearted and the down-trodden. I thought, “Hey, that’s me”! And sure enough, that weekend, I was swept away. I remember certain things. I remember Brennan’s YELLING “GOD CANNOT STOP LOVING YOU.” “God’s love is not like your mother’s or your father’s love. God’s love does not stop. It is not conditional in any way. If God were to stop loving you, He would not be God.” “Come now my love, my lovely one come. For you the time of winter has passed. The time of spring has come. Come now my love, my lovely one come.” Not only was the entirety of my being, my heart, my mind, my spirit, my head, my eyelids, my fingernails and my shaking knees, SWEPT AWAY by the love of God that weekend, but I experienced a sense and practice of community that rivals any other time in my life.

I came away from that weekend in full realization that everything that I do is a part of who I am, and God’s love overwhelmes and overtakes every aspect of my being. I came away from that weekend inspired by the Holy Spirit to be more open, vulnerable and loving. I came away from that weekend a little bit less of an ass hole, inspired to be less judgemental, less mean-spirited, less shelfish, and generally more caring and accepting of others. I came away more inspired to accept others into my camp. Not to judge as a reaction to my being judged or criticized, but, like God, to be unable to stop loving.

An Email Conversation; Modernity and Post-Modernity

Below is a recent email conversation I had with the leader of our small group at church, which we call "Canvas Group". In it you will see that issues have arisen regarding the tension that have arisin in our world between the forces of modernity and those of post-modernity. I hope that the reader would feel free to comment on any important issues that arise in the conversation as the reader feels lead, as that was my purpose in posting the conversation here in this forum.


This is interesting to me. Certianly applies to our conversation on Sunday. Interested in hearing what you think...

Dear Jason,

I liked the article ˆ very nicely done. I would however disagree with the implication that the former is modern and the later post-modern (though I can see how some of the points could be true). We must be careful also about the strawman that we so easily put up just to knock it down with simplistic and dogmatic responses.

Again, I appreciated the article... it is definitely food for thought, and I like the Dorothy model much better than the Wizard model... but at the same time, that may simply be how I function and not how it is supposed to function (in other words, my opinion versus the actual truth).

thanks for the article,eugene

Dear Eugene,

Thank you for reading the artile. Although it is obvious to me that the ideas described by McLearen in the article are not definitive of the theories of postmodernity, it also seems obvious to me, in light of what postmodernity revealed about modernity, that McLearen's ideas in this article are in fact representative of the world of postmodernity, its conditions, and its hopes that can be applied to the church (and/or leadership) in a similar way that it could be applied to education (although I think part of the idea of postmodernity is not to separate idea and application). This makes me wonder what you mean when you say "scarecrow".

I've been thinking and praying about this stuff a decent amount while I've been on vacation the last few days. In general, both in this email exchange (although so far this one is brief) and in our conversation in your yard during July 4th, I am finding it difficult to get on the same page as you. I can't really figure out where you are coming from. If you don't mind, it would be very helpful to me if you could briefly re-state your own philosophical position, and also how you see it relating (or doesn't) to your Christianity. I think that would help our communication. Sorry if my not fully remembering what you said about that earlier is bothersome. I do remember some of it (I remember that you said you lean more toward Plato than Aristotle, and I remember that you mentioned Pascal, but I don't remember the conteext of your mentioning Pascal - I think you also mentioned Hegel (?)), but not all of it in a holistic way.

Thanks Eugene,


Dear Jason,

I think we’ll need to sit down and talk through this. I don’t have time right now to write it all down for you. I’m also interested in what your philosophical position is without the use of rhetoric or someone else’s formulation – just Jason. Let’s figure out a good time to meet.

By the way, I hope that agreement is not a necessary requirement for our continued dialogue. I’ve enjoyed your questions and comments, as they’ve helped to shape my own. I hope mine have done the same for you.

no reserve,no retreat,no regret...eugene


Before you read this, FYI, you will see at the end that it's purpose is not necessarily for you to need to take the time to respond (outside of when it is perfectly convenient for you). Just thoughts that, for me, need to be addressed. You will see what I mean when you read it...

I just wanted to address one of the things you said here in this email, you hope that our agreement is not a necessary condition for our continued dialogue. I'd say definitely not. I also enjoy our conversations. And I think they do help me to formulate better where I stand.

I think, however, that when it comes to a question of things continuing or stopping, the things that come into question for me are issues centering around Canvas Group. I think, for me, some (or much?) of the grounds of our discussions can be found in Canvas Group, how it operates, and its dynamics. In other words, our discussions do not just occur, are not just housed in the world of the language of philosophy or theology. The discussion for me is simultaneously happening IN Canvas Group, church and the world at large.

Now, as for any alarms that may be sounding in your head. I'm not saying that Canvas Group has to stop or anything like that. I think I might be advocating some change, but I'm not even sure exactly how or in what practical, concrete way. I can give specifics like that in Architecture, but not so much so in ministry. My ideas for change in a ministry context would be much more reactionary and contingent, and much less grounded in an overall historical and/or theoretical perspective (relative to my perspective on Architecture). Sorry.

I just feel like/sense lots of modern influence in the workings of our Canvas Group, partially in you and your background, it seems to me - I mean one obvious example would be your reaction to "post-modernism". That gets difficult for me, because much of my very walk with God has been a disenchantment with and distancing from modernism. Interestingly, for a while in college, much of my studying and thinking was consumed with pooh poohing post-modernism; but my understanding of the basic essence of postmodernism, especially when it is addressed from the perspective of Christ, has changed and is changing. I am seeing just how much "post-moderninsm", or at least certain essential elements of it resonate with me (I mean to refer to those elements as understood by post-moderns themselves, and not as understood by the reactionaries who hold onto the mythology of modernity). Post modernism at least resonates with me when considered in our current contemporary context/world. There are aspects of it present, for example, in the architecture and ideas of my favorite modern architects; but at the core of how the presented thier work and ideas, they were moderns addressing their own world and their own time (and I think they understood that, at least certain ones of whom I am thinking).

And part of my concern too is also beyond myself. To "evangelize" or "do church" in a post-modern world while holding onto the modern mythology that much of the mainline church adopoted (and still holds onto) is to talk at them rather than to them. Obviously won't get anwhere.

Also, just to prep you, or to address another aspect. When you say "without the use of rhetoric or someone else's formulation - just Jason's", uuhh, I wonder. That needs some clarification for me. Now when we think of rhetoric we pretty much think of useless subjective banter based on someone's personal opinion or position. My understanding of that understanding is that it is a modern one, based on the modern presuppositions of objectivity, universalism and individualism - key points of attack on modernism from the post-moderns - points with which I resonate strongly.

That brings up another aspect that needs clarification. I'm not sure what you mean by "Jason's formulation". I mean, maybe in 20 years I'll be much more able to have a "formulation". But I feel like, for the most part, it's another modern individualistic, rational, scientific assumption that there is a liberated Jason selfhood that not only deserves ("natural right"), but has the very possibility of having some pre-set "formulation". As I see it, any "formulation" (I don't really like formulas - but I'm not sure if you meant it that way) at which I arrive will come for me in time, shaped by time, circumstance, and my life story as directed by God. That might sound Aristotelian, but I am really just referring to how I will experience the process of my "formulation". I am not saying that there is no Jason; simply that the Jasonness, as it is experienced for Jason, is developed in his story of time as he imitates the things he sees and has seen around him. As far as Jason knows, Jason doesn't source his fomulation (although he may tell himslef that sometimes :), whatever one's position on the metaphysical status of Jason's Jasonness.

In other words my formulation of my world view is not a surgical operation on the world from a modern archimedian point outside of it, but happens within its ever-changing and shifting life and story. We unfold together, and any formulation of mine will be a position in the world, not a stance on it. That's one of those clarifications that is specifically necessary for our particular time and set of circumstances. That is to say that I do not say that (my formulatin is not a surgical operation on the world, but a view of it from inside of it) with the intention of arguing whether Plato or Aristotle are universally correct or valid. I say that with an understanding that there is a world (a Reality), Plato and Aristotle saw the same world from two different angles, and spoke what they saw. A body gets sick, enters a state of disharmony, when certain elements overwhelm the others and become forces of destruction rather than creation. To correct the sickness is not to kill it but to introduce the proper elements from, percievedly, outside the system in order to bring the body back into harmonious motion. Focault's background was medicine (and, if I am not mistaken, he was also not a fan of the modern Western practice of pill-popping to neutralize or kill "bacteria" in the body). So I am certainly speaking with a large-scale background, but I am not sure where you fit within that scenery.

This for me is prelim stuff to get on the same grounds to have a discussion. I mean, it is obviously part of the discussion, but these things get in the way in my mind before I can imagine upon what grounds we would have a real conversation WITH each other. That's just to say, if I were to sit down with you to have a discussion in which you wanted to hear "my formulation without rhetoric", the first thing I would have to do is ask you what you meant by that; and all these thoughts would be present in my mind to be addressed.

Thanks Eugene. No need to to respond really via email. I was more just letting you know beforehand about what's going on on my end so that there's not (for me) an overwhelming amount of ground to cover when we get together.


Dear Jason,

I wanted to, in the interest of time, just want to comment on one aspect of your most recent formulations (you can call it your story or narrative if that works better for you). You do have many good thoughts on the issue of identity, and yet one aspect that is missing is the tension between the self and the other. You seem to absorb the self into the continuum of history, as if we were simply being tossed to and fro by the waves of circumstance and experience. I would actually not disagree with you completely as I do partially. My disagreement comes out of my own self-critique, where I have often sided with your description of the self as a being of consequence. It is not that we are not slaves, but rather that we are given the (divinely bestowed) power to choose who are master is. When God asks us to choose life or choose death (as he did throughout Scriptures), He is not asking us to make ourselves into something new. Rather, he is charging us with the same commandment that has resonated throughout the history of creation and beyond: Love Me. To love me is to obey me. But quintessentially, I want nothing more than your love. This is the miracle of praxis – where we find ourselves acting out that which is implanted on our hearts. And if God is on hearts, then we will be serving Him naturally, not out of intentional acts of volition. Based on what I do know of you – I believe you’d agree.

Did I ever tell you that I see so much of my younger self in you. I too was a radical bent on changing the world – I actually still am one, but I’ve chosen a much gentler path to get there. I’ve said this before, but experience has taught me that I’m much less sure of the certainties in life now than I was 10 years ago. Though I hold some strong positions on many issues, I’m not as willing to stake everything on those claims. I’ve taken on the role of reconciler, of bringing together opposites and finding hope in community. We so often mistake commonality for community. We draw close to those who look like us, think like us, like the things we like, eat the things we eat. When in fact, community in its most authentic sense most embrace difference and discomfort, even disequilibrium. I disagree with both modernists and post-modernists, but I want desperately to bring them together in fellowship in Christ. I also disdain both Conservatives and Liberals (each for different reasons), and yet I want to build bridges and accomplish good without being tied to party labels (e.g., I want Conservatives to learn to Love and I want Liberals to care more about Truth). I fear the abuses of both Calvinists and Arminians, but at the same time, there is truth in both of their positions, a truth that should bring us together in Christ. [By the way, this is the context behind the statement I made in regards to the paradoxes in JR’s vision for the church].

One question for you – you said somewhere in your email that you wanted to “stop” in relation to Canvas Group... can you clarify? Above all else, I honor, love and accept you as a fellow brother in Christ. I enjoy our every conversation as it stretches me and challenges me – it forces me to articulate that which I assume is understood. You have great potential... keep seeking, remain humble, and always stay close to God.

no reserve,no retreat,no regret...eugene


As for your comment on what I was saying about self, and the implications of the relation to other and history - I'm not sure actually if I would agree. I certainly would have agreed heartily like a year ago. I think I have since then realized that my concern with practicing obedience to God out a "natural" love for God in my heart, at least in the way that I was thinking of it, was a self-made construct (in a way) that for me was a reaction to the mechanization and automation of modernity. Over the last year my experiences and studies have pointed me toward the ancient Jewish notion of discipleship as mimesis, the "Talmid" (Jewish word for "disciple") who "wants to be just like the Rabbi". At the same time, the Rabbi's love for me as taught me that the concept I used to hold about "loving him naturally out of my heart" just doens't hold water. I need to be confronted with the hard truth of my sin, and I need God and community for that. It ain't gonna happen out of the jolly love that naturally flows forth from my heart.

Now, as far as I know at this point, the current attitude in that regard could itself be reactionary and temporary, merely a lesson necessary from God to Jason. I mean, I'm sure that an awareness of the need for the Holy Spirit to show us about our sin was present in your statement about the love of God flowing from our hearts into our actions. At the same time, however, I know that in this teaching process in which God has Jason are issues of the tension present between the modern notion of the "liberated self" and the the ancient man who is engulfed in the mysteriousness of the great unknown and who is utterly dependent upon God, in need of being shown a/"the" way along the path. I think in general post-modernity re-opens the doors to a focus on mimesis of elders or "Masters/Rabbis" (actual, existing, physical, beings of substance) and away from the liberated, rational self who is able to abstractly and/or analytically interpret scripture himself, deal with sin in the privacy of his own closet and generally plan and manage his own life as an individual with authority, power and intellect. And that issue, in itself, I know isn't just some private Jason affair.

In other words, as far as I can tell, I think the issue you are addressing is typically referred to as "legalism", where the "solution" is to obey God out of love for him that flows like a fountain out of our heart. That in itself sounds great to me, but I think our conception of "legalism" is colored by a modern construct that itself can/should just be torn down, a construct that gives everything color and/or tint of uniform, continuous, homonogeous and mechanical. A construct built by a very simplified modern self whose goal is production, success, effectiveness and efficiency. When that construct is torn down, a whole new world appears before us, and we are left standing on the foundation. When that self stripped bare, he returns to his old complicated emotional self for whom "just going through the motions" is a completely foreign idea. This foundation that I've been coming to is the Jewish "root", or "vine", or at least something "like" it (I put quotation marks around "like" to highlight the idea of mimesis, since we obviously won't become ancient Jews).

So, all in all, I'm not sure how to say whether I agree with you or not. I do and I don't. Or maybe I do and I do, since I'm sure the whole issue of needing the Holy Spirit was present in what you meant by what you said (sort of in a way two separate issues, the thing about needing the Holy Spirit to show us our sin and the thing about obeying God out of the love of our hearts and not being legalistic). It's kinda complicated for me, but anyway...

Now, as for your requested clarification on the issues with Canvas Group. What did I mean by something "stopping", or something needing to stop in some way? Well, I think we should talk about it in person. Is that cool? Can we discuss it Thursday after Canvas Group - Audery, you and myself? Her and I have talked about it a bit. I've come at it from a different angle here, that's for sure. I want to talk about it in person dealing much more as much as possible with specific and practical things in Canvas Group itself. Plus, I'm just not sure what I want to say and how to say it. I feel like Thursday night would be much better. How's that?


Dear Jason,

I just have to laugh at myself for missing the mark with you again. I’m still not sure I understand (e.g., the difference between a “vine” paradigm and a “naturalist” paradigm), but at minimum I have some articulation on the matter from the one who should know – Jason, that is.

One thing I would have to comment on is the attribution of modernism to all things bad... this is the danger of reactionism (something we are all prone to), and what you call modernism, I would actually call post-modernism (specifically in relation to the anti-legalist movement that is characteristic of many Christian circles today). For you see, the post-modern elevates the epiphany above the enlightenment. It takes reason out of the picture, and allows for emotion to replace it. It makes all things subjective, and thus all things non-empirical. That is as far from modernist thinking as I can imagine – but once again, perhaps I’m just not hearing you correctly.

Let’s talk on Thursday (the sooner the better, since I’m always expecting the worst when it comes to talks like these). Nonetheless, I felt like I had a breakthrough on Sunday. I have realized something about myself and about all of you that I’ve (once again) missed this entire time (not that it’s been that long). In addition to whatever you want to bring, what I would like to hear from you (and Audrey) is: 1) what you originally expected out of CG; 2) your ideal of a CG.

see you Thursday,

Thanks Eugene,

Yeah, that's something I think about every now and again, or have thought about at least. Am I just being negative? As I work through through the issues more and more I am able to answer that question in the affirmative when it is the case and in the negative when appropriate. But, well, I don't have everything figured out, so...

But one thing that is ingrained in my thinking, something that jumps out at me when I hear you mention that post-modernism allows emotion to replace reason, is a knowledge and/or awareness of our ANCIENT history. When I think of the emotion thing, think of ancient tribal man, that's a big part the assoication in my mind with what happens when the modern self is "deconstructed". Honestly, I haven't really fully articulated in my mind where post-modernism fits in with that emotionally-colored picture, but all that just to say that for me I don't just associate emotion with postmodernism and rationality with modernism.

As for the "all things subjective, and thus all things non-empirical" thing, uuhh, yeah, I don't know. I mean, I know that it can seem that post-modernism is all about sujectivity, and therefore "BOOHH!" The problem is, when you address that issue within the framework, if you can call it that, of the post-moderns, the issue becomes not the debate between subjective and objective, but that modernism itself WAS "subjective". In other words that its claims of "objectivity" were themselves not so "scientific", but also "mythic", just like everything in history leading up to it.

David Fitch, for example in his book The Great Giveaway, talks about how in certain modern German circles the Jesus hermeneutic that was claiming exactly such "objectivity" had to keep adjusting and changing with the changing circumstances of history, AND that each time the change occured, they ended up with a different picture of Jesus that looked each time more like the new self in the new historical background.

As for the non-empirical aspect of post-modernism that you mentioned, honestly, I just don't know where you're coming from on that one. The beginning of Focault's Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, is simply a very detailed, graphic and descriptive story about a criminal's being tortured on March 2, 1757.

And I look foward to Thursday night. I wouldn't expect it to be so bad. We appreciate you, and see how you necessarily bring a vision and a stronghold that would otherwise not be present in our group.

Thanks again Eugene,


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