2012-12-19

Is there any better symbol for God than the Trinity?



What is the best, most complete possible way to speak of the nature of God? In the Christian Tradition, the answer is clear: The Holy Trinity. And for the sake of argument, let us posit that the idea of the Trinity is the most complete expression of the data about God that has been revealed in Christ, through Scripture, within the Christian Tradition.

Even if it is the most complete expression of God available on the basis of the data of revelation, does this mean that there could not possibly be a better model, or symbol, of God's nature, if we were only able to increase our intellectual ability, or develop new categories of linguistic expression?

On Elisha, Bears and Bullying


In light of recent tragedies, I wanted to comment once again on the issue of violence in the Bible. On the whole, I tend to view Biblical violence, done in the Name of God, as a series of object lessons about how the God revealed in Jesus Christ does NOT want God's Name to be used, and how systemic violence can rot the core out of a society.

First of all, there are episodes of horrendous violence done in God's Name. Think of Joshua and the Israelites wiping out entire cities in Canaan, killing every man, woman, child, and animal for God. When we read these stories and then look telescopically across the trajectory of Scripture, I think we must ask ourselves: Do these violent actions create the society of justice, compassion, and peace that God repeatedly asks for?

2012-11-29

On Atheist Fundamentalism and Christmas Wars


That's right folks: The Holidays are here again, and with them comes yet another round of the Christmas wars! Today I read a nice article summarizing the current battle lines for public displays of religious affection all over the country. And, upon reading the stories about how anti-religious groups are trying to shut down governmentally-sanctioned religious displays and events, I am struck by just how angry and determined many of these anti-religious groups are. And I don't actually blame them for the anger. There are very many people who have been mistreated in the name of God, and it is only natural to want to lash out. It is logical to want to shut down a force that you believe to be detrimental to the healthy functioning of society.

I get it: Religious people (and institutions) have hurt you, demeaned you, marginalized you, and in some cases abused you. Now it is time to silence religion so it does not happen to others. But is all the anger and bitterness and constant ideological war working for you? Is it working for the health of our society? Is it working for our children?

Secular or Religious?



Recently, the head of the Evangelical charity "World Vision" came out and said that "Conservative Christians" need to stop waging their so-called "culture war" on "secular culture", and instead focus on doing Jesus' works of Love in society. Bravo! I heartily applaud this move, and support it with all my heart and mind.

And yet, I do want to call the question of what is "secular" and what is "religious". How do we identify secular things and religious things? Is something "religious" simply because the name God or Jesus is slapped on it (along with appropriate Biblical proof texts)? Or is something "religious" when it embodies the values and policies of religion, even if it does not claim religious identity or even recognize God?

While I do think we need to maintain terms that help us differentiate whether we are doing something with reference to God (i.e. religious, spiritual), or without reference to God (i.e. secular), I do think these same terms can sometimes hide the realities at work within cultural phenomena.

2012-11-07

Is Data Real?


After tutoring one of our Residential Life students in philosophy today, I was pondering yet again how to explain the reality of the non-empirical world.

And I thought that the ontological status of whether data is something "real" might be a way to get the point across. Specifically, what is the ontological status of data stored in digital form?

And while I am sure someone has written about this somewhere. This is a new analogy for me.

It seems that the ontological status of digital data may be a concrete way of expressing the ontological status of any type of symbolic information. And the ontological status of symbolic information is a sub-type of the ontological status of all non-empirical realities (maths, logic, signification, etc.)

So, back to digital data: Is it real?

2012-11-02

1559, Elizabeth, and Parker: The Beginnings of a Middle Way




A colleague of mine recently sent me a very nice summary article from the New Yorker on the abiding impact of the Book of Common prayer on our culture. If you have no idea who Thomas Cranmer is, and why he is one of the most formative influences of the English language, you should read it. Right now. Before you read the rest of this essay!

2012-10-30

Images of Eternity: Paths to the Transcendent (A Book Review)



Keith Ward's book "Concepts of God", which is also titled "Images of Eternity" when first published in the U.K., is a distillation of some of the key discussions in Ward's much larger four volume magnum opus on Comparative Theology (i.e. the academic discipline of comparing models of God across religions and across linguistic/cultural divides). This book takes a representative thinker/theologian/philosopher from each of the major world religions (Jnana and Bhakti Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity), who is considered "orthodox" within that religious tradition, and compares them with each other on key structural claims about the nature of "Ultimate Reality" or "God", which Ward tends to refer to as "The Transcendent".

2012-10-25

Oh The Amazing Things Photoshop Can Do


This semester, I became an "art project" for the digital media class here at TMI - The Episcopal School of Texas. There were 130 pictures made of me, and we selected 25 to be shown in this slide show. Special thanks to the digital media class and Brian Palandri (their teacher)! Enjoy!!!

2012-10-16

On the Useless Usefulness of Art




A colleague of mine recently sent me a nice pop-science article on the neuroscience of art. In reading through the article, I found many things to be of great interest. All of the research on how the brain perceives and mis-perceives is great, and helps us understand why certain artistic techniques "work" to produce a certain type of perception. I really liked the stuff on the Mona Lisa.

However, where the article seems to fall flat is when it starts to talk about WHY we view art, seek art, find art beautiful, and even crave art.

All the explanations seemed predicated on finding a certain "usefulness" or pragmatic value to art. Almost as if art were yet another expression of the evolutionary drive to thrive. In this, art is treated solely as a means to another end (the end of evolutionary success).

I'm not sure if I can go with this. At least not all the way.

2012-10-11

Nate raps at Camp 2011


And while I am posting old videos, I might as well add this. In 2011 I did my "Gospel Rap" at Camp Capers in the Diocese of West Texas, and someone video recorded me on an iPhone!

This rap was originally written for a camp I did in 1994 as a sophomore in college. Some of the theology is not exactly what I might write if I wrote it today. I would still be as Jesus-centered, but not quite as penal-substitutionary-ish. Nevertheless, it is seared in my brain after performing it at various times over the last 18 years. Maybe someday I will write a new one that more adequately reflects my theology.

Until then, here it is. Enjoy.

Religious Not Spiritual


I'm not entirely sure why I forgot to post this on my blog in January when I made this video. But, nevertheless, here it is.

This is a response to the "Why I hate religion but love Jesus" video by Jefferson Bethke. There are many things I agree with him on, and I probably would have done a similar video (had I the skills and production abilities he does) 15 years ago. But I have been walking with Jesus for a while now, and this is where I am at on my journey now.

Here are the lyrics and some scriptures for further study.

2012-10-06

Transformers Alphabet


My son recently turned 4 years old, and he is finally interested in learning the ABC's and how to spell. But his real fascination is with Transformers. Recently, he started asking me things like "What does Optimus Prime start with?" and "What does Megatron start with?".

So, I did a handy Amazon search for "Transformers Alphabet" and "Transformers ABC's". Nothing! I was surprised no one had put one of those out.

So, I decided to remedy the situation! But for free only, not for pay!

If you have a 4 year old in your life who might enjoy a Transformer's Alphabet book, enjoy the PDF below [22 megabytes]:

https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B9uX1KQ33IUub3pBT3VQdExicnc

2012-09-30

Great Quote on Worship


"For worshipping God is not telling some very powerful, invisible person how good he is, in the hope that he will pat you on the head and give you eternal life. It is the reverent awareness of the Being of God, as [God] truly is."

Keith Ward, Images of Eternity, page 3

2012-09-28

Science as an Act of Faith




An Essay inspired by John Gribbin's "In Search of the Double Helix"

A colleague of mine recently invited me to guest lecture in one of his classes on the relationship between religion and science, particularly the history of the relationship between Christian Theology and Evolutionary Science since the time of Darwin. He invited me to read a portion of the class book to prepare: John Gribbin's excellent summary of the history of Evolutionary Science entitled "In Search of the Double Helix".

2012-09-05

Readings on the Philosophy of Science and Religion




This post grows out of a conversation with one of our science teachers here at TMI.

One "package" of questions that students and adults frequently ask me about is the bundle of issues surrounding science and religion. They range from supposed scientific "proofs" of God's existence (or the star of bethlehem, or Noah's ark, etc.), to questions of evolution, creation, and the Genesis stories, to deeper questions about whether God has a meaningful role to play in a world where we have physical explanations (or at least hunches) for most empirical phenomena.

2012-08-18

The Joker, Mass Murder, and Metanarratives



Within hours after the Aurora shooting, people were predictably asking "Why?"

Why would an intelligent young man dress up like "The Joker", arm himself to the teeth, booby trap his apartment, and then go on a rampage that kills and maims dozens, only to give himself up without a fight?

Speculations have ranged from mental illness to demon possession to blaming moral relativism in society. A particularly helpful take on the connection between the murders and the "Joker" is found here:

To charge someone with blasphemy you must first hate God yourself

One of the members of Pussy Riot gave a very powerful final statement, that itself is worthy of meditation and prayer. See the full transcript here:

Pussy Riot Members Sentenced to 2 Years for Offending Russian Orthodox Church | Religion Dispatches

It makes me wonder: In thinking about the testimony of the Bible - stories of Jesus, Stephen, Paul - and the testimony of history - crusades, inquisitions, jihads, witch trials - do we ever find the charge of blasphemy used by someone who is a friend of God? Rather, is it not always and every time that when someone levels the charge of blasphemy, we find that in fact it is the accuser who hates God and who uses God as a tool to oppress, enslave, and control others?

R.I.P. Facebook


On Saturday August 18, 2012 at 12:29:56 AM, I deactivated my Facebook account. Apparently, if my downloaded Facebook archive is correct, I was on Facebook for 5 years, 9 months, and 17 days (since December 1, 2006). In that time, I had around 1,350 "friends" while in Dallas until 2010. When we moved to San Antonio, I deleted about 300 of those friends. Tonight, I ended with 1,235 friends. How many of them do I talk to, or even take time to keep up with? A couple dozen maybe.

2012-08-16

Welcoming Vera

Vera Grace was born on August 1st. She is our third child, weighing in at 8lbs 1oz at birth, and 19 inches long. She was also our biggest baby!

Here are some pictures, mainly for family members to download.

2012-07-24

On the Integration of Epistemology


This summer I read "Descartes Bones", which, although not a masterwork of analytic reasoning, it is a fun romp through the seismic changes that modern epistemology brought to society, as seen through the lens of the rather weird journey of Descartes' skeleton. In an irony of Philosophical proportions, it seems that his head became separated from his body, and no one knows where his body has gone!

Anyway, the book brought up for me a continual question that I ask: How does one integrate the insights of different epistemology across history? Different epistemologies weigh different kinds of data in different ways, yielding access to different kinds of knowledge that other epistemologies seem blind to. Furthermore, different kinds of epistemology seem to act as watchdogs or guard against the habitual errors of other epistemic methods.

For instance, it seems to me that:

2012-07-19

Conservatively Progressive, Radically Traditional and Liberally Creedal

The "dancing saints" icon at St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church is a great visual example of Creedal theology combined with a radical social vision.
This week Ross Douthat at the NY Times wrote an article asking whether Liberal Christianity can be saved. His article basically tied radical social decisions (such as ordination of transgender persons and blessings of gay and lesbian unions) to doctrinal sellout (such as liberals supposedly being syncretist at worst, and bland at best). And he then tied doctrinal sellout with numerical decline, in such a way that numerical decline is the primary indicator of whether a church body is being unfaithful to Jesus Christ by accommodating to culture (while, conversely, numerical increase is the primary indicator of faithfulness).

2012-07-14

On Tebowish PDRAs

In a recent editorial at Religion News Service, Michael Medved argues for religious acceptance of the public prayer-gestures offered by religious athletes such as Tim Tebow [See Medved's article here].  With standard over-hyped rhetorical flourish, Medved calls current religious attitudes a "war" on Christian athletes. He cites a rabbi who rejects the public religious displays as evidence of a larger cultural rejection (when I imagine that if we ran the numbers, most Americans actually applaud such behavior). Then Medved talks about how Johann Sebastian Bach wrote "SDG" on all his compositions (short for Soli Dei Gloria, or "Glory to God alone"). And if Bach wrote SDG privately on his compositions, so the logic goes, it certainly must be laudable for Tebow to kneel in prayer in front of millions. 

2012-07-13

Fractals, Bodies, and Temples


A friend of mine from a more congregational Christian tradition sent me an email asking me about one of the many narratives found in Scripture to describe God's salvific plan, centered on Christ, as it unrolls across the Scriptures. His email centered on our Christian identity as both "bricks" which build the temple of God in Christ, and as "temples of the Holy Spirit". Furthermore, he was asking how this tied into the narrative of God's creation, especially the so-called "8th day" in which God is re-creating humanity through Christ.

Here is how I replied:

2012-06-05

Anonymous Comments

I no longer publish anonymous comments on this blog, even if they are very insightful comments (although, in all honesty, most anonymous comments are pretty bland and trite). 

If you are not going to comment, but are not willing to put forth the effort to add your name (or "handle") so we can have a conversation, then I'm not going to put forth the effort to publish your comment or answer back.

Thanks, and may whatever God(s) you serve richly bless you.

2012-04-17

Surfboards or Swimming Pools?



I'm a know it all, and I know it. I've had opinions as long as I can remember, and they are always the right opinions. Ask me why, and I will tell you. Whether by genetic predisposition, social nurture, demonic deception, or divine gift, I have been given the gift and/or curse of loving knowledge (and teaching others what I know). When I was a non-Christian, I knew why I did not believe in God, and I thought I knew why Christians used God as a "crutch". And I would argue with anyone who tried to tell me different.
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.