Pete Rollins on Biblical Criticism and the Religious Register

In my review of Bart Ehrman’s newest book Jesus, Interrupted, I wrote, “The Bible does not need to be inerrant or infallible in order for it to be the inspired Word of God.” As I read that back I realize that I sort of said that and left it there without going in depth as to what that means or looks like. I’ve been thinking about how I could articulate how one could wrestle with that tension and was meaning to write a clarifying post……and then I read this from Pete Rollins’ Fidelity of Betrayal:

“While I’m an advocate of biblical criticism, I wish to argue that a truly religious reading of the text involves bracketing out these questions and engaging with the text as it is received, without justifications or explanations. This does not meant that we have to place our critical faculties to one side when reading the Bible, somehow ignoring the various antagonisms at work there. It simply means that when engaging with it in a religious register, we bracket out such questions in order to perceive a spectral presence that lies beneath the various antagonisms that mark the text.

In this way one can say that an academic reading and a religious reading of the Bible do no clash in any way, for they operate in different, incommensurable registers and approach different dimensions of the text. For instance, when reading in Revelation about the 1,500 square mile New Jerusalem descending from heaven, with walls of jasper and streets constructed from pure gold, the religious reader does not ask whether or not something like this is possible but rather allows the image to burn itself into the imagination. The religious reader endeavors to approach the impenetrable source that gave birth to this wondrous image while simultaneously allowing the vision of an aweinspiring city with gates that never shut, bathed in eternal light, overflowing with mercy and full of people from all nations to impact the way that we live today.”

Not surprisingly in the slightest, Rollins put into words this idea much more effectively and eloquently than I ever could have. I echo his sentiment and I hope it more clearly reveals where I’m coming from. Ehrman is fighting fundamentalist fires with his own fundamentalism and in many ways it’s very important work, but my hope is that we can include and then transcend that conversation for an entirely new one.

Check out Rollins’ blog for some more great reading.

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Drum Blogging

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Here are a few pics of my current studio set up. I’ve really enjoyed the DW Classic series which is an homage to the Ludwigs and Slingerlands of the 50′ and 60’s. They have a mahogany/poplar shell construction with oversized maple reinforcement hoops and rounded bearing edges. The drums give off a very warm, dark tone with fundamentally lower notes than what you would get with maple or birch. I love the Classics because they really do give you the vibe and sound of a vintage kit with all the benefits of modern construction and technology. I have a 60’s Ludwig that I’ve used a ton and this kit keeps up with it, no problem. The shell dimensions shown above are 14×20 bass drum, 8×12 high tom, 14×14 floor tom with a 5.5×14 DW maple snare.

I’ve been using the Classics on tour for the past few years now but did not have them when we recorded our last album. My touring sizes are quite a bit bigger than what I have set up now, especially with the bass drum. My touring bass drum is 14×24 and I’ve typically recorded with a 24″ kick on all our albums so it will be interesting to see how the 20″ will shape the drum sound. Initially, it sounds really great but very different. Time will tell. It will also be interested to see how the toms fit in. The sizes I normally use are 9×13, 16×16. I’ve never owned a 14×14 until I recently got the one I have now and I’m kicking myself for putting it off. It’s a fantastic size.

For some who might wonder about the blanket on the bass drum, the reason we use the blanket is an attempt to isolate the three microphones on the bass drum from the noise coming from the rest of the kit. It’s something we’ve done for a long time and it really works well.

Click here to see a better pic of the same set when I had it set up in my office.

Accept and Reject Yourself at Once

I’ve been been thinking through this paradox that seems to me to be found at the heart of the human condition. Through all the reading I do to the relationships I’m honored to participate in from day to day, the idea that we must, at the same time, accept and reject who we are resonates with me.

While I believe these are both to be done together, acceptance of oneself must come first. In the beginning we were created and we were good. Because we have been given the gift of life, we are children of our creator, created in the very image of the creator. All of us contain a divine spark, the very essence of the creator is hidden somewhere our being. Regardless of what we think, say or do, we cannot escape this condition of unending acceptance. As a perfect parent loves their child, no matter what the child does in his or her lifetime, the parent will always welcome the child home with joy. I think there is a parable somewhere in the New Testament that touches on this idea.

When we are able to accept ourselves as the Creator does, we then must awaken to acceptance our Creator bestows on all others. If, because I have life, the Creator accepts me, then the Creator accepts all others who I share this wonderful creation with. Because we are loved and we accept that love, we are then able to give love to others more freely.

The reason acceptance of oneself comes first is because this is the most difficult of the two. It’s incredibly difficult to rest in this acceptance while we are bombarded by images and messages throughout our experiences that tell us otherwise. Whether it’s not making enough money, not looking just right, not having enough twitter followers, it all points to our apparent insignificance.

The most common response to the rejection we feel from the world around us is to somehow fight back. We try to make more money, slim down, start poppin’ rogain, get a nice tan, and up our online stats. It may make us feel better in the short term but all we are doing is fighting a war that doesn’t really exist. We are feeding our ego, not our spirit. We are catering to the “false self” that truly is of no significance. Our ego is a mythical beast we so often can’t help but feed. But while we feed the beast, it feeds on us right back without us even realizing it. We die a slow, painful death while the ego is in charge.

But if we can find a way to truly rest in the Creator’s acceptance and love, the scales can then fall from our eyes and we can see that the war of the ego is a myth. This realization clears the way for us to reject our false selves without hesitation. The false self is the part of our being that is apart from the Creator’s image found in us. Our only value is found in the Creator’s acceptance of who we are and the only way we can truly reject ourselves is to accept ourselves.

Hopefully that made sense cause I’m too lazy to read it back to make sure it does. 🙂

Jesus, Interrupted

I recently read through Bart Ehrman’s newest book, Jesus Interrupted. It is a fascinating look at the Biblical texts in all of it’s quirks and contradictions. He sets out to undermine a literalist, objectivist view of scripture in a very compelling and accessible manner. More than anything, I appreciate Ehrman’s ability to bring folks along into some pretty deep waters while keeping his scholarship within the reach of his audience. In my case, Bart is pretty much preaching to the choir. He takes a wrecking ball to the myths of biblical inerrancy and an objectified treatment of scripture.

While it saddens me that Ehrman has abandoned his faith, what he provides here in this book and others is something that should be very helpful for Christians. The Bible does not need to be inerrant or infallible in order for it to be the inspired Word of God. Not only does Ehrman highlight contradictions that seem a bit superficial, but he sheds light on the differences between the competing theologies we find in the New Testament. For example, who’s voice do we heed when it comes to keeping the law or not? Paul’s or Matthew’s? Not that we can’t include both perspectives into a singular theology, but they ARE at odds with one another. What do we make of that? That’s just one example of many that Ehrman proposes.

There is quite a bit of material in Jesus, Interrupted that because of the little I know is hard to totally buy into what Ehrman is saying. His section on the early history of Christianity seems to make sense at face value but I’m not too sure about it all. Ben Witherington has done an extensive blog series responding to this book. It’s worth skimming just to keep some balance but when I read a bit of it, it seems like Witherington is doing a bit more stretching than Ehrman seems to be doing.

On a related note, you can check out an interview with Ehrman by Tony Jones right here.

The Cosmic Christ

Jesus didn’t move from Jesus to the Christ without death and resurrection. And we don’t move from our independent, historical body to the Christ consciousness without dying to our false self.

We, like Jesus himself, have to let go of who we think we are, and who we think we need to be. “Dying at 30, largely a failure?” We have to let go of the ego names by which we have named ourselves and become the naked self before the naked God. That will always feel like dying. We need to know, experientially, that “I am who I am who I am”, and THAT naked, undecorated self is already and forever the beloved child of God. Then we can begin to share in the universal Christ consciousness.

— Richard Rohr, The Cosmic Christ

Thoughts on the Death of Jesus.

Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.

Instead, Jesus death offers life because in Christianity, and in Christianity alone, the God and Creator of the universe deigned to become human, to be tempted, to reach out to those who had been de-humanized and restore their humanity, and ultimately to die in solidarity with every one of us. Yes, he was a sacrifice. Yes, he was “sinless.” But thank God, Jesus was also human.

The hope he offers is that, by dying on that cross, the eternal Trinity became forever bound to my humanity. The God of the universe identified with me, and I have the opportunity to identify with him.

Tony Jones from his blog at Belief.net.

Some day I want to write a story about a man who wants to be a father, but only if his child turns out to live an absolutely perfect, mistake free life. If the child makes a mistake or is selfish in any way, then the father would be justified to express his wrath for the duration of the child’s life. How dare that child be imperfect!? If only the child would have remained perfect, then the father could have loved him or her with all his heart, absent his eternal wrath.

The Unlikely Disciple

I recently picked up Kevin Roose’s new book “The Unlikely Disciple” on a whim at the book store. If you haven’t heard of it, at the time he wrote the book, Roose was a early in his college career at Brown University. He was A.J. Jacobs’ research assistant for his book “A Year of Living Biblically” and in preparation for that book, both Jacobs and Roose took a trip to Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world which was founded and presided over by the late Jerry Fallwell.

While on their visit Roose came up with the idea of embedding himself, a run-of-the-mill liberal Ivy League student, in the Liberty University culture for a semester in order to see what the real, day-to-day experience was for a student at Liberty. This book is a recounting of his experience and it’s both incredibly hilarious and fascinating. I really appreciate Roose’s openness and intelligence in the book. He neither over simplifies the experience and is always thoughtful in processing his surroundings. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s an entertaining and thoughtful read.

Thoughts on the Kindle

I recently received a Kindle 2 as a birthday gift from my lovely wife. Luckily the Kindle was shipped to my house just in time for a five day trip to the East coast last week. This was the first time I’ve ever gone on a trip without bringing several books, weighing down my bags. So right away, huge plus.

The trip was a great opportunity to put the Kindle to the test. In theory, this device is a great idea but I’ve never had an opportunity to give it a whirl. All in all, I’m very impressed. The screen is very easy to read and at no point did it fatigue my eyes. The ability to take notes, highlight, listen to music all in the same reading device makes it a very useful tool. At the bottom of the screen, the Kindle gives you a percentage of how far you’ve made it into whatever book your reading. I found that it provided an extra motivation to tackle the pages, something I don’t get with the dead tree version.

At no point did I miss having a real book instead of the kindle. Maybe that’s because I am still digging the newness of the device. It’s also due to the indisputable fact that if I were to bring with me all the books I have in my Kindle, I’d be paying so much more for extra baggage- not to mention how bad my back would have been with a backpack heavier than a bowling ball.

In addition to the device itself, the integration between the Kindle and the Kindle iPhone app is fantastic. I really do feel like I’ll up my reading volume significantly while armed with both options.

If you love to read and do a lot of traveling, a Kindle is an absolute no brainer. The only downside I can see with the device is that it seems very fragile. If you’re going to get the device, don’t skimp on a case and the 2 year extended warranty. I have a friend who ended up getting a slight dent on the back of the device and his screen doesn’t work at all.