Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Surprise Gifts

Merry Christmas to all! Today is Christmas Eve and I am pondering the wonderful Christmas surprises that I have received over the years. Without divulging the contents of these gifts or the givers of these gifts, I will write briefly about the joy in surprises. Christmas can be extremely stressful for people with the need to buy gifts for everyone in their immediate circle so that no one is left out. Often we give only when others are going to give back to us. However, this seems to defeat the purpose of gift giving. The heart of Christmas giving is to give without receiving anything in return. Now that we have children Christmas is a whole different experience. We want our children to not simply be consumed by the consumption that takes place around the Holiday season. The gift that we were given in the birth of Christ was certainly the largest surprise and gift that Mary and the world had ever received. Without unpacking all that is wrapped up in the gift of the incarnation, I want us to ponder the joy that is represented in surprise gifts taht people are not expecting. The best gifts are often the unexpected ones. This fact is exentuated when we are in a particular difficult spot financially or in the circumstances of life. I want to encourage people to think about who has blessed them in their life through surprise gifts with no intent of receiving anything in return. Maybe you can think of someone in your life who would be blessed by an unexpected gift? This Christmas think of your attitude and posture in gift receiving. Allow for the giver to be blessed simply through the giving and not put off by your belief that they are giving in hopes of getting something else in return. Thank you to those of you who have blessed my life through unexpected gifts at crucial spots in my life. I cannot tell you how much you have touched my life. This Christmas I think of you and the surprise gift we all received that first Christmas night.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Treats

I have been spending a significant amount of time over the last few weeks creating and devouring "Christmas" treats. I have been wondering why we relegate these scrumptious goodies, like Hershey Kiss Cookies, to the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Why do we not enjoy these packages of culinary pleasure in July? There are a few things that I can argue should remain in its allotted time slot, egg nog, but I would like to see us bring some of these delicacies into other months and seasons of the year. We could be eating red, white, and blue thumbprints around the 4th of July. Easter could be even better with rosettes. There are a few items that I think need to be reconsidered as "treats". The first of them being plum pudding. Who wants to have trinkets placed in the middle of their bread mash? Thinking of chomping into a metal trinket conjures up nightmares of finding bones in my McNuggets. Let us come together and revaluate why we only allow treats during certain seasons, and what we classify as "treats". It could be great conversation around the Christmas tree this year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Snow vs. Sand

I discovered yesterday that I enjoy creating objects out of snow much more than creating things out of sand. I know, I know, sand equals warm beach, but thirty degrees is really not that cold. So hear me out. Snow lends itself to ease of sculpting while also allowing you to roll it up like a piece of carpet. You can create a MASSIVE snowball in a short period of time by simply packing a snowball and then rolling it over other wet snow. In addition, your sand creations do not last much beyond a day, but if it is cold enough your snow sculptures can last for days and even weeks. Snow is lighter than sand which lends itself to shoveling without breaking ones back. I would like to see you scoop an equivalent amount of sand and snow and see how you feel. Snow means Christmas, which means family, friends, and food. I love the snow and have discovered that it is a far superior medium than sand when it comes to sculpting. Did I mention that snow doesn't chafe when it gets down your pants?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Meat Fest.

"If God didn't want us to eat meat, then why did he make it taste so good?" This is a profound statement! Yesterday I was able to partake in a "meat fest" to celebrate a close friend's birthday. I was introduced to the goodness of FOGO, a Brazilian steak house, last year on my birthday and have been raving about it ever since. I consider it pure joy to sit down to a table where men bring charred meat to my plate on a sword like skewer. They do not simply have one or two choices of meat, oh no! They have a variety of cuts of beef, lamb, pork, and chicken seasoned any way you could think of and then cooked over an open fire. Bacon wrapped filets, parmesan crusted pork tenderloin, the list just goes on and on and on! You control the meat flow by simply flipping a little cardboard circle from green to red or vice versa. I just wonder how much meat your body can actually process? We weighed in before and after our lunch and I gained 5 lbs. That is right, 5 lbs! Now granted, I did eat some off of the delectable salad bar, but the majority was straight meat. I will not be darkening the door of FOGO on a regular basis, but it sure is a wonderful place to celebrate with friends. The only thing better than the meat that graces your lips is the conversation and fellowship that you are able to share with those at your table. Your meal at FOGO is not just a meal, it is an experience. Those of you who are meat lovers or know a meat lover, check out your local FOGO for the next big occassion. You will not be disapointed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pannenberg's Indirect Contributions

Toward a Theology of Nature is a compilation of essays by Wolfhart Pannenberg that address the relationship between science and theology in hopes of establishing an appropriate theology of nature. The reason why this book was selected among the other four was because of the monumental impact Pannenberg has had on the science and theology discussion and the importance this discussion has for the revitalization of an evangelical natural theology. The overall thesis of the book is that the conflict between science and theology is inappropriate and needs to be done away with so that both fields of study will be able to obtain their full potential. Due to the complexity and nature of this book I will not be able to provide an exhaustive analysis of all the essays however, I will be highlighting the key areas that impact natural theology and providing my own analysis as to how natural theology can benefit from Pannenberg’s theology.
The relationship between science and theology was once a healthy and fruitful one. Theology was the driving force behind the advancement of science and spurred scientific thought by the questions it was raising. “There is a widespread awareness that science alone cannot cope with the consequences and side effects of scientific discoveries, especially in their technological application” (pg. 15). The concepts of inertia, contingency, and irreversibility all must be dealt with scientifically in order for theology to address larger categories, such as the creative work of God. Pannenberg rightly rejects the view that the Bible provides sound scientific principles and argues for theologians to not “invent a different form of science for its own use” (pg. 33). Rather than inventing science that seems to fit into a wooden biblical understanding of the creation and operation of the world, he contends that theologians should be actively engaged in current scientific research with their theological frameworks to help understand how God’s creation works. He is not arguing for or against creation, it is not even a question to be considered from his point of view because evolution is the scientific norm.
Although Pannenberg is a proponent of evolution he does not diminish the role of God in creation. “One cannot think seriously of God—in any case, in the singular—without thinking of God as the origin of all that is and also of the origin of the world” (pg. 51). The third article of the book focuses on the history of science and theology and provides a great understanding of God’s relationship to nature through the eyes of science and theology. One of the most significant scientific blunders in the life of the church, the Copernican Revolution, is given significant discussion by Pannenberg in this section. He goes on to discuss other key thinkers like Spinoza and Descartes in order to validate the role theology has played in science. The problem that arose within theology and science was that God’s relationship to the world became more and more distant because of the science that was developed. The determinism of Descartes gave way to the flexibility of evolution. “So Aubrey Moore wrote of Darwinism that in the disguise of an enemy it had shown itself actually as a friend of faith. It is only important to find God himself at work in the process of evolution” (pg. 57).
The final article that I would like to comment on is entitled, “The Doctrine of the Spirit and Task of a Theology of Nature.” The Spirit, for Pannenberg is an essential part of understanding nature and the work of God. He points to Irenaeus, Luther, and Calvin to illustrate the historicity of the concept that the Spirit’s was at work in creation. The trap that must be avoided when working with the Spirit in creation is Cartesian dualism. The way in which Pannenberg over comes this is be revising Teilhard’s conception of the Spirit so that one can explain how energy is not only contained within bodies but also transcends bodies (pg. 132). He concludes this section by explaining the reality of human transcendence through the mind. “The human mind is no longer itself the unity of experience, but is looking for something beyond itself that gives unity to experiences” (pg. 136).
This collection of Pannenberg’s works is not for the faint of heart. He intersperses extremely technical scientific language with complex theological complex that could leave one’s head spinning, but the information that can be gleaned from this book are significant for a new natural theology. If one is going to understand how God is communicating to his people through nature, one must have some understanding of nature. The best way for an individual to understand nature is through the work of natural scientists. There are copious amounts of facts that science can provide in an explanation of the human body and theologians need to know at least some of it to better understand God.
Some would argue that evolution diminishes the value of natural theology and removes God from his position of supreme authority. I have to agree with Pannenberg and say that it does necessarily follow that if evolution is true, then God is less of a God. I am not, at this time arguing in favor of either side; that is not the focus of this project or this article. Pannenberg’s affirmation of God’s creative work through evolution does not extinguish the revelatory value of evolution. I think that Iraneaus, in his emphasis on the work of the Spirit, provides significant support for a Christian natural theology. “Thus the spirit, according to Iraneaus, was the first to reveal God to humanity” (pg. 126). I have to wonder if our pneumatology is not what has been hindering most evangelicals from understanding, and accepting natural theology as a valid form of revelation?
Pannenberg does not deal directly with the topic of natural theology in this particular work, but this does not mean that the application of this work is any less influential for a post Barthian natural theology. Natural theology, and all of theology for that matter, needs to be informed by the work of science. The more science is able to tell us about nature the better understanding we will have about what God is doing in and through nature. It is true that creation has been affected by sin, but this does not mean that all of science is corrupt or that the empirical data that is gained through scientific research has less value for our lives. Again I resonate with Panneberg when he said, “Our task as theologians is to relate to the natural sciences as they actually exist…Yet we must go beyond what sciences provide and include our understanding of God if we are properly to understand nature” (pg. 48).

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology.

Alister E. McGrath set out to reestablish the validity and value of natural theology by introducing a new Christian natural theology. In order for natural theology to be authoritative it must first start from a Christian perspective, according to McGrath. The intent of The Open Secret is not to provide a comprehensive understanding on McGrath’s new natural theology, but it is to open dialogue about how a new natural theology can and should be developed. In my brief review of this work I will provide an overview of the three parts of the book, followed by a brief analysis of the book and role of this book in future natural theology dialogues.
In part one of The Open Secret, McGrath seeks to explain why natural theology has developed and the overall context in which natural theology exists. The reality of a transcendent God is the first component he seeks to explain and establish as a foundation for the need for natural theology and the content of that theology. If God is not transcendent, then knowing about him through the created order is not possible. He spends the majority of the first section unpacking what it means to say that God is transcendent for not only Christianity, but also science and all of life.
The second section of the book is concerned with cleaning out the rubbish of previous natural theologies and purposing a new view of natural theology that is in line with an orthodox Christian worldview that deal appropriately with the doctrine of creation and the kingdom of God. “The natural world, seen in a particular way, is presented as evidence for the character of the kingdom of God, or the attributes of the divine” (pg. 123). The problem that McGrath points to in our “seeing” creation in an appropriate way is the depravity of humanity. He acknowledges that humanity is unable to have a full understanding of God through a natural theology that operates strictly on general revelation. The natural theology that Barth condemned is also condemned by McGrath. Our hindered vision is illustrated another way, “To use an image due to Michael Polanyi, we could say that the natural order, when viewed through the prism of the Christian tradition, ceases to be a noise and becomes a tune” (pg 184).
The rediscovery McGrath is arguing for in the second portion of this book is one that requires a faith in Christ in order to have a better understanding of what God is doing through the natural order. In addition, one’s faith in Christ does not grant them infallible access to understanding nature because, “nature is thus to be seen as a continual reminder and symbol of a renewed creation, a world which we do not yet know but believe to lie over the horizons of our human existence” (pg. 208). Nature can only allow an unbeliever to have a distorted understanding of God because of humanities vision problem. The Christocentric focus in the realm of natural theology is not only new and revolutionary, but essential for an evangelical natural theology that is able to withstand evangelical criticism.
The third section of the book focuses on the categories of “truth, beauty, and goodness.” McGrath illustrates that all of humanity is concerned with and drawn towards truth, beauty, and goodness. His heart is captured in the following statement, “We must aim to convey or bring about “an apprehension of the spiritual beauty and glory of divine things” (pg 285). This new vision of natural theology moves beyond the apologetical realm of proving the existence of God and becomes applicable for not only those seeking God, but all the more for those who are followers of Christ. One’s worship is not complete without an appropriate natural theology. McGrath captures this fact by quoting the great Jon Edwards, “When we are delighted with flowery meadows and gentle breezes of wind, we may consider that we only see the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ” (pg 284). The broadening of one’s perspective of God’s intention for creation opens one up to a richer worship that is stunted without Edward’s worldview.
The Open Secret is a revolutionary book that left me wanting more, and anticipating the next publication from McGrath that will follow this work. McGrath is infamous for publishing a book that will serve as a springboard to a more in depth analysis of a topic, or a multivolume collection. He provides not only an evangelical opinion, but a highly scientific approach to a complex topic that could result in the furthering of the crucial dialogue between science and theology. This work will serve as a shot in the arm to a Christian approach to natural theology. The crucial component that I found in this book was the “ground-clearing” that must take place in order for a sound and solid natural theology to be constructed.
Since natural theology has been stigmatized by the Enlightenment and theologians like Karl Barth, those who wish to develop an Evangelical natural theology are going to be leaning on the work of McGrath for years to come. The value of McGrath’s purposely is not only because it is scientifically faithful but because it is also overwhelmingly Evangelical. I believe that the final section of the book provides a contemporary application of McGrath’s theology that will result in the expansion of Christian’s worship of the almighty God. The practical application of this new natural theology is a component that cannot be denied by would be naysayers. I see the practicality that permeates McGrath’s natural theology as paramount to its application and future impact on the ongoing science and theology conversation. As we continue to see the increase of relativism and the epistemological breakdown that has resulted from the postmodern condition, we need to reevaluate crucial theological categories like natural theology. Pre-Enlightenment natural theology is dead and of no value for us today. The new natural theology is seen through the eyes of Christ and can be summarized by saying, “Natural theology is the approach to nature that arises from the inhibition of the Christian faith, leading to nature being “seen” in a certain way” (pg. 233). McGrath has answered the bell that resulted from the death of this natural theology and not only answered it, but shattered the bell through The Open Secret.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ravaging Wolves at the Gym

So this morning I was working out at the local YMCA and encountered the savagery that takes place before 7:00 am at the gym. I set my dumbells down, walked to get a drink, and some guy swoops in and snatches them up like a hungry crow diving on fresh road kill. I was shocked. Did he not see that I was using them? A similar type of incident happened last week when I was at the same Y at nearly the same time. A man with a shaved head and a scowl that would frighten young children dove onto a machine right in front of me as if he was going to miss out on his bread alotment for the month. Do people really need to act like this at the gym? I thought that those who worked out before the rest of the world was awake was supposed to be bound together by mutual deference. If you are getting out of bed hours before the sun cracks the horizon, you should acknowledge and respect the rest of the morning goons. So the next time that you are thinking about rolling out of bed early and heading to the gym for an early workout, watch out for those ravaging wolves who are scoping out your equipment from across the gym.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Are we really sheep?

November has fully engulfed Minnesota. I sit here gazing out at a fresh blanket of white that covers the dormant grass and accentuates the barren limbs of oak trees. Christmas lights can be spotted on a few eaves, and Christmas wreaths are finding their way into numerous retail stores. Beyond the egg nog in the cooler at the grocery store, there is something else that cannot be missed adorning the feet of a plethora of womens feet in the land of 10,000 lakes and across this great nation, UGGs! These trendy sheepskin boots that have been imported from Australia and overtaken every females Christmas wish list. Whether it is the colorful shorties, the gaudy fur kissed, or the classic tan mid-high, the UGG fad has taken hold of, not only our college campuses, but our entire country. I have been told that they are amazing boots that keep your feet warm but not too warm. The wool is like a cozy blanket that your feet can't wait to be encased in. I am not arguing that they boots are not top shelf, but there is something that concerns me about this trend. Are we all a bunch of sheep?

How often is there a fad that one person starts and then the masses simply buy into because "everyone is doing it." Are we simply drinking the Kool-Aid because everyone else is and we don't want to be left out? Are the UGGs a status symbol, or are they the cats meow? Why are women in sunny Phoenix buying up furry leather boots that are rated for the Tundra? I think that there is something in all of us that has resulted from our need to be accepted and desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves. I think back to seventh grade and my new American Eagle sandles that I bought instead of Tevas. Since Yankton is three years behind the rest of the country AEO did not mean stylish and trendy, it meant generic. Therefore, I was labeled as "Generic Eric" because I had broken away from the Teva movement. Who would consider American Eagle generic in this day and age? However, my intent in blogging about the "sheep nature" is not to seek sympothy for some buried wound. I simply want people to consider why they want particular styles, brands, or trendy items.

The old addage, "Would you jump off a cliff if Jimmy jumped off a cliff" fits very well into the world of fashion trends. Would you be wearing those Australian boots if the other 75% of college females were not wearing them? Why do we simply go through life with our eyes on "others" for what we should be wearing, doing, saying, eating....Can we not be different? Do we not make decisions because they are good decisions? How can we live outside of the sheep mentality. Stop following the crowds and take some time to ponder why you are wearing what you are wearing and doing what you are doing.

A Christian Natural Theology?

A Christian Natural Theology is an inappropriate and deceptive title for John B. Cobb Jr.'s on the applicability of Whiteheadean philosophy and natural theology. Natural theology is a portion of this particular book and becomes the emphasis in the final twenty pages. However, he spends the lion's share of this book describing Whitehead's philosophy and his own process worldview. In this post I will provide a brief overview of Cobb's book, including detailed description of a few of his arguments, followed by my own critique of this particular work.
As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the book is Cobb's presentation of Whitehead's thought. The first piece of Whiteheadian philosophy that is essential to the book is his understanding of time and reality (actual occasions).  For Whitehead, reality is not comprised of individual events that are able to be dissected and analyzed, but is a continual flow of undefinable occasions.  "The sense of there being a reality other than our experience given to us in the experience is absolutely primitive" (Cobb Jr. pg. 6).  Once Cobb has explained Whitehead's conception of reality, he turns his focus to humanity.  The human soul is built on top of Whitehead's view of experience.  For Whithead, and Cobb, the soul is immaterial and thus immeasurable.  "It is nothing but the sequence of the experience that constitute it" (Cobb Jr. pg. 19)  From this, Whitehead coined the phrase, "living person," which is a soul.  Since humans are "living persons" there is not life after death for Whitehead, but Cobb does not believe that natural theology needs to be concerned about such issues.
Whitehead's doctrine of God is as equally as complex as his anthropology and complicates the relationship between humanity and nature even further.  Science is one of the main areas of Whitehead's experience, therefore, his doctrine of God is highly influenced by science and at times stereotypes orthodox Christianity as only believing in a "God of the gaps" approach to science.  Whitehead is against a personal conception of God and, "He even denies that religious experience provides adequate warrant for affirming the actuality of God" (Cobb Jr. pg. 90).  He goes on to argue that humanity shares in God and God's desire is to see the increase of all creatures.
Cobb concludes this book with his definition of theology and how natural theology fits into the larger realm of theology and in the even larger system that is the cosmos.  He throws some bold accusations at conservative evangelicals definition of theology and in particular, biblical theology before transitioning into what is supposed to be the focus of the book.  Cobb seeks to provide a philosophically robust natural theology that is not dependent on a community of conviction or theological foundation.  Instead, his natural theology focuses on "the findings of science, or the widespread experience of humankind" (Cobb Jr. pg. 176).  Since he knows that many of his critics will try to label his natural theology as relativistic, Cobb attempts to rebut them in the final pages of the book rather than through further publications.  However, he seems to do the exact opposite of what he is trying to do by making statements like the following, "There is no human value that is eternally sanctioned for all times and places" (Cobb Jr. pg 181).  The book ends with Cobb's final argument for why Whitehead's philosophy is the best option for a Christian natural theology, and is anything but inadequate or heretical. 
Although many orthodox Christian theologians have a great disdain for Cobb and his work, I think that his perspective can be a rejuvenating breath of fresh air for our understanding of natural theology. Cobb is not afraid to take on the monumental challenges that rationalism and the Enlightenment have created for theology and Christianity and I am grateful for that. Also, I agree with Cobb when he says, "the partly legitimate rejection of natural theology has led much of Protestant theology to fail to come effectively to grips with this kind of responsible thinking" (Cobb Jr. pg. 173). The scientific revolution has forced Christian theology and doctrine to adapt long held beliefs because they have been proven to be suspect at best and false at worst. Since Cobb has a high view of science and the empirical verification that science operates on to confirm the veracity of claims, we must be open to the advice that he contributes to the conversation. 
The first problem that must be addressed in Cobb’s presentation is that of relativism. He attempts to counter this claim in the final chapter of the book by claiming to not be relativistic; however, he contradicts his claim by arguing for a confessional form of theology that transforms truth claims into plastic assertions that are only valid within particular groups and contexts. In addition, he contends that we must be open to the truth claims of all faiths, and not be exclusivistic in our understanding of truth. This is yet another example of the need to accept Cobb’s worldview in order to by into his thinking. As a radical pluralist, Cobb will not allow for Christianity, or any religion for that matter, to claim to have ultimate absolute truth that trumps competing truth claims.  Furthermore, he exhorts Christians to "set aside all their particular belief about Jesus Christ, God, miracles, salvation, and eternal life that they recognize as peculiar to that tradition" (Cobb Jr. pg. 176).  This idea is preposterous.  How can he argue in the first portion of the book that humans are so tightly bound that we are unable to separate key events in our lives and then urge people to bifurcate their core theology from the rest of their thinking?  Theology is a tight web that is affected by all other components of the web.  One cannot simply section off portions of their theology for modification and believe that the rest of their theology will not be affected.
The second problem I have with Cobb’s thought is his description of theology. “One’s work is theology even if one ignores all earlier statements and begins only with the way things appear to one from that perspective which one acknowledges as given to one in some community of shared life conviction” (Cobb Jr. pg. 166).  How is one able to do theology from the present without any understanding of the past?  Again, if reality is comprised of linked events that build on one another, how is one able to secure a vacuum like setting to construct a theology devoid of past influence?  I find Cobb's description of theology to be unacceptable, therefore, Cobb's natural theology is inchoate.  
As you can see from my brief analysis of Cobb's, A Christian Natural Theology: Based on the Thought of Alfred North Whitehead, the book does not fulfill its purposed aim in the title, nor does it provide a robust natural theology that is able to function in any realm, let alone an orthodox Christian one.  I do find some value in Cobb's work for those both inside and outside the theology of the church.  Science is a key component of our world, and needs to be taken seriously.  Christians can no longer act like ostriches and bury their heads in the sand in hopes that science will go away.  On the same token, Christian theology, if it is to affect the masses must not cloister itself from the secular world and must engage with folks like Cobb and Whitehead so that we are able to articulate our findings not only to those operating with a similar worldview, but with those who disagree with us. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Would Jesus have voted?

As I sit here with CNN in the background and Wolf Blitzer's voice ringing in my ear, I have to wonder what Christ would have to say to us.  For too long I have been repulsed by the "Christian Republican" classification that condemns those who align themselves with the democratic party.  The amalgamation of theology and politics is a travesty to both arenas.  Whoever is elected tonight should not effect one's civic actions or religious beliefs.  The church must always be the church, devoid of what is happening in the political arena.  It is true that we as the church are to be championing legislation that will help those who are unable to help themselves.  Christ's ministry was to those who were hurting, in need, and unable to help themselves (widows and children).  Will people start to serve now that their party is in office?  Will people stop serving because their party is no longer in power?  How does democracy affect the message of Christ?  In my opinion, the gospel is the same message today as it was when Christ entered our world through the incarnation.  We must seek to further the kingdom of God without being influenced by our political convictions.  Shame on us if we are more concerned about political platforms than the mission of Christ.  The harsh reality is that the people who were starving and homeless last night are the same who will be in need tomorrow night.  Set aside your preconceived notions of what is going to happen now that we are beyond Nov. 4th and there is a new man in the White House and focus on what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  Will the elections affect our country, most likely.  Will Christ work in your life affect how you care for the world, I pray it does.   

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Contextualization of the 1700's

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz "Discourse on the Natural Theology of the Chinese" was originally written in French and had not been translated into English until the 1960's. Leibniz was a brilliant man whose influence is still felt today in numerous scientific disciplines. He was a firm believer in the power of reason and believed that reason, "would eventually bring everyone to the true faith, i.e., Christianity." (Leibniz pg. 15) Since the original text was translated from French, and had existed in a German translation, the translators of the English version provide a lengthy introduction to the text in order to lay a proper foundation for the discourse. The introduction provides context for Leibniz's work on the natural theology of the Chinese and illuminates the difficulty that surround the translation of a work that has ambiguous references to Chinese terminology. Although Leibniz never traveled to China himself, he had detailed correspondence with five different Catholic priests that were living and serving in China.  

The dilemma that he faced was that two of the priests he was corresponding with saw value in the Chinese culture and exhorted the papacy to allow some of these customs to be retained within the local church and to not require the renunciation of Chinese customs in order to be saved and a part of the Church.  He believed that the ancient Chinese had a conception of God that was similar to the Catholic Church and the missionaries and priests should be using Chinese forms and terms in conveying the gospel message.  

The ancient Chinese equivalent to God, according to Leibniz, was the "Li."  According to his interpretation of the ancient writings he interacted with the Li "is the prime mover and ground of all other things." (Leibniz pg. 57)  The Li is the basis for all reason and the foundation of nature.  Father de S. Marie, one of the three priests who opposed the retention of Chinese culture in the church, understood the Li as the "Law and universal Order."  It is what sustains the natural order and reproduction of animals, however, it does not reside within creation.  Leibniz saw a direct correlation between the "Natura Naturans" of Western thought and "the Nature" of the Chinese thought.  He goes on to argue that his understanding passive "prime matter" is consistent with the active powers that are attributed to the Li.  

The culmination of Leibniz's thought and emotions surrounding the relevance of Chinese thought and the revelatory extent of the natural theology of the Chinese is found well before the end of this essay.  He believes that many Christian writers have made claims that are striking similar to those of the Chinese yet have not been condemned as non-Christian.  "Thus I find that everything that has been said against the ancient Chinese to be only groundless suspicions." (Leibniz pg. 133)  This is not to express that he believes all ancient Chinese thought should be accepted whole hog without correction or revision within a Christian worldview.  Since Leibniz is an accomplished scientist and mathematician, he understands the advancements in these two fields that have led to a better understanding of nature and the God who is responsible for creating the natural world.  He argues that the Chinese need to be introduced to the validity of "the Macrocosm and the Microcosm" in order to have a fuller understanding of God (Li). 

Leibniz recognized and appreciated the morality that he saw within the Chinese culture and a natural theology that had been established for nearly thirty centuries.  When speaking of the condemnation of their natural theology he said, "It would be highly foolish and presumptuous on our part, having newly arrived compared with them, and scarcely out of barbarianism, to want to condemn such an ancient doctrine because it does not appear to agree at first glance with our ordinary scholastic notions." (Leibniz pg. 59)  This thesis is at the core of the comparative theology, pluralistic discussions, and the contextualization efforts in missiology/theology.  What are we to do with doctrine and the practice of doctrine that mirrors our understanding of Christianity, but does not play our language games?  An appropriate understanding of natural theology allows for the fruitful conversation and understanding that Leibniz advocated nearly three centuries ago.   

Since this is a brief overview of Leibniz's "Discourse on the Natural Theology of the Chinese," I was forced to leave out some intriguing aspects of his argument and some crucial parallels that need far more space than allotted in this essay.  One of the key parallels that I would encourage readers to examine, that I have not unpacked, is Leibniz's interaction with Confucius' teachings.  He believes that some disciples of Confucius have distorted the great thinkers true thoughts and the relationship between Confucius and Christianity is much closer than the Catholic Church has led Christians to believe.  The thoughts of Leibniz are as applicable today as they were in the 1700's.  Christians must lend their ear to wise teachers like Leibniz in understanding how we can dialogue with other belief systems and find common ground that will allow us to have a greater understanding of who God is and how he is working throughout the world, and in particular, in the realm of natural theology.  God's revelation does not reside solely within the west and we must seek to cultivate the fruitful dialogue that Leibniz had in the early 1700's.  It is quite clear, God has revealed himself to the Chinese, and all nations, through the natural order, now the question becomes, to what extent? 

Monday, October 6, 2008

The agony of the edge.

ABC's Wide World of Sports coined the phrase, "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat."  Yesterday I finished my second marathon and experienced the agony of the edge.  I had my eyes set on running a 3:45 marathon and trained all summer with that goal in mind.  When the gun sounded at the start of the race my ego took over and I was convinced that I could catch up and run with the 3:40 group.  I mean really, what is five minutes faster over 26.2 miles?  A LOT!  I caught up to the group at mile five and felt amazing.  Here I was running out of my mind and feeling like a champ.  The rain had started to move in and began to pick up over the next few miles.  By mile eight we were running in the middle of a Minnesota monsoon with small rivers gushing down the gutters of the Parkway.  The rain really was an afterthought to the blistering pace 
that I had was maintaining.  

The superstar running bubble that I was living in began to deflate as the 3:40 pace group slowly inched away from me.  At the halfway mark I had turned in my fastest half marathon by over four minutes, but came face to face with the consequences from my previous actions.  If you have ever been driving too fast on a snowy/icy road and began to slide you experience the "UH OH" of terror.  You know you are going into the ditch, and there is nothing you can do but hold on and hope you are not injured.  I knew I had gone out WAY too fast and had pushed beyond my lactic threshold with 13 miles left to run.  As I reached the 19 mile mark and crossed over the Mississippi river, I was still on my 3:45 pace, but was running on fumes.  

The train derailed at mile 20 when my right quad knotted up tighter than a fishing line on a Bass Masters pole.  I had no choice but to pull over and try to massage/stretch out the cramp.  As I raised my leg to stretch my quad my hamstring balled up like a frightened armadillo.  In order to stretch my quads I had to stretch my hamstrings.  This process continued over the next six miles of the race.  Every half a mile I couldn't bear the pain any longer and was forced to stop and massage/stretch if I wanted to continue moving forward.  Spectators would try to encourage me as I stopped, but what they did not realize was that no amount of encouragement could overcome my cramping muscles.  Physiologically I was SPENT.  All I could think about was the eighteen months of getting up before the sun to log miles was all for naught.  I had wasted all of my training by allowing my ego to get me out of my race plan.  In the words of Napolean Dynamite, "You IDIOT!"

My pace had decreased from 8 minute miles to a 16 minute mile and I was broken.  Quit?  NEVER!  There was no way I was ever going to quit this race.  I had just watched "Touching the Void," a documentary about a European climber who broke his leg atop a peak in Peru, fell into a cravass and was left for dead by his partner.  He didn't quit.  He spent four days sliding himself down this mountain with a broken leg back to his camp so that he could live.  I was NOT going to quit.  As I crossed the finish line I was wrecked physically and emotionally.  All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball along the grass, but I knew I had to eat and keep moving.

  Once I saw Nikki and the kids I was brought back to reality.  I had just ran a marathon!  Nikki wanted to hug me, and the kids, in their costumes, just wanted their daddy to hold them.  They could have cared less if I had ran a 2:30 marathon of a 5:30 marathon.  They love me for who I am and are proud of what I had just accomplished, and that is what it is all about.  I tell people all the time that the marathon experience is far more about the journey than the destination.  It is about getting up at 4:30 to go run 24 miles on your day off.  It is about soaking in 55 degree ice baths to try to recover so you can run more tomorrow.  It is about doing something that you want to do and have to earn.  So I sit here one day removed from my train wreck and ask myself one thing, what marathon will I run next?

Friday, September 26, 2008

New is not always new!

So I have been intermingling school and my life on this blog, but the reality is that it is ALL my life. I hope to be posting another natural theology book review in the next few days, but thought I would tease it a little in advance. I am currently reading "A Discourse on the Natural Theology of the Chinese" by Gottfried Leibniz. His original paper was written in the early 1700's but took over two centuries to be translated into a language I can read (English). The thing that I have found most fascinating about Leibniz's thought in this book is how apropo it is for our current pluralistic world. He was engaging with ancient Chinese writers and Jesuit priest that were attempting to understand how God had revealed himself and and through the Chinese culture. Two of the five priest penned a letter to the Pope in Rome arguing for a contextualization of the gospel message, but were quickly rejected by the papacy. Rome found it to be impossible to allow the Chinese to continue living out their culture, and become members of the Holy Roman Church. This disgusted Leibniz and certainly created a grotesque fracture in the relationship of countless Chinese and the message of Christ.
I do not think that it is ironic that we are discussing similar questions today in our churches and our seminaries. God is working in all contexts and locations on His Earth, and it is essential that we seek His wisdom and discernment in understanding on the "essential" message He is trying to convey to us. We like to think that the questions we are wrestling with are some how new and only relevant to "our time," but this is clearly NOT true. We need to be seeking out the wisdom of those who have already engaged the topics that we are struggling with. To use the cliche, we do not need to reinvent the wheel on most issues. Scientific advances are something completely different, but we are not talking about science here. I charge you to take some time when you are faced with a perplexing question or troubling conflict and seek out some wisdom from the past because chances are others have dealt with it too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

House and home.

This past weekend I went to visit my mom (and Ben, Kim, Isaiah, Dom, and Lincoln) in Ames Iowa. My mom recently moved to Ames and purchased a new house that she now calls home. As we drove to Ames my wife and I wondered what it would be like to be in my mom's new house and in a town that was home to a portion of my family, but not me. I have often wondered about the question, "Where are you from?" and the saying, "Home is where the heart is." Well, this weekend I was able to fully understand those two simple, yet complex sentences.

As we pulled into my mom's new driveway I did not know how I would feel upon stepping through her front door. Would it feel like my home or would it feel strange and foreign to me? Entering through the front porch I realized that my mother's home will always feel like home to me. The same old couch my brothers and I used to wrestle on placed securely behind the cedar chest that Ben spent days refinishing in the garage at 404 East 15th street. The white house that is deemed the residence of my mom is not my home, my home exists wherever my mom and her things are located. Looking around the new house I was drawn back to our old house in Yankton and the memories of vaccumming under the dining room table, and trying not to brake the white wash basin in the bathroom. I am certain that my mom will move away from Ames soon and buy a new house, but she will never need to buy a new home.

As for the answer to where I am from...well, lets just say I will always be the Displaced Dakotan from Yankton. I have lived numerous places around the country, but will always be from the first capital of the Dakota Territory that is nestled along the Missouri river.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What would you give for what you love?

Yesterday I received my October edition of Runner's World magazine, which I feverishly fingered through to see what the highlights were going to be for this particular issue.  The first article that caught my eye was entitled "Life and Limb."  It chronicles the lengths Dr. Tom White went through to retain his ability to walk, run, hike, and simply live the life he wants.  Oh, did I mention that Tom had to have a portion of his left leg amputated to retain the life he desired?  

Tom was a national champion cross country runner in his collegiate years and had his senior season of cross country and track robbed from him by a drunk driver.  While riding home from work one summer evening, Tom was clipped by a drunk driver and had his left tibia and fibula severed to the point of near amputation.  He begged the attending physician to not cut off his leg, but save it so that he could continue to run.  After intense rehab and recovery Tom had made a full recovery and had become an ultramarathoner who was competing in races of 50+ miles.  However, Tom's leg could not last forever, and after 26 years of running on a "patched tire" he could barely walk without significant pain.  There was really only one option for Tom if he was to continue his active lifestyle, remove the malfunctioning portion of his leg.  So he did.  After months of contemplation and doctor appointments, it was finally time to remove a portion of Tom's left leg and foot.  This was hardly the end of the story.  Tom spent months in rehab trying to learn how to walk again with his new prosthetic leg and wondering if he really had made the right decision.  Although he was having to learn how to walk again, he was bound and determined to become a runner again.  Last year, on a trip to Europe, Tom did just that, became a runner again.

This story of grit and determination really made me wonder if I would ever a limb removed, in order to retain the ability to participate in an activity that I love.  Would you choose to have a limb amputated to continue participating in an activity that you love?  What do you love so much that you would give a major piece of your body for?  Is there anything you can't live without that would cause you to become an amputee?  Is this guy crazy?  Does Scripture not speak of gaining the whole world yet forfeiting your soul?  How does that Scripture inform your thinking about this story??  I have to say that I would make the same decision Tom made!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Running Distinctions?

If you have ever seen two motorcycles pass one another on the highway, you may have noticed them wave at one another as if they knew each other. "The wave," is an unspoken part of the motorcycle culture that demonstrates the common respect and comorodery that exist between those who ride on two wheels. I thought that same cultural practice was present within the running world, but have found my theory in need of adaptation over the past few weeks. I recently journeyed down through a prestigious portion of St. Paul where I knew many runners frequented and expected to be warmly welcomed by the other early morning athletes. I was sadly mistaken. Most people that I encountered along my route would look right passed me as if I was one of light poles that lined Summit Ave. I attempted to make eye contact, smile, and deliver a "good morning" to all those who ran by me, however, few and far between would return a greeting. I was shocked and disapointed by the cold shoulder that I recieved time and time again. Were these people not hearing me? Did they not see the smile on my face? Were they in the zone and dead to their surroundings?
I thought about this phenomenon for a number of days and sought out to test it again on Tuesday, in my neighborhood, on the trails of Roseville. The first runner I encountered I gave a warm smile and "hello!" Sure enough, they smiled back and greeted me with a "hello" in return! Maybe this was an issolated incident, but the next runner proved that theory wrong. Each runner, or walker, that I encountered would return my greeting with at least a smile, making me think that there is a difference between the runners who frequent local trails, and those who choose to run in highly touted areas of the metro. So I began to think, the people on the local trails run for the love of running and enjoy the company of a fellow runner, while the people running in high profile areas are running to be seen running. They do not care about the larger running community and the comrodery that we all share with one another. I hope that I am wrong, but encourage you to test my theory. The next time that you are out for a run, wave at all the fellow runners and walkers, and see what happens. Do they see you? Do they care about your shared passion? I am anxious to hear what you find, and hope that you can prove my theory wrong!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Analysis of "Natural Theology" by Emil Brunner

A Monumental Conflict Between Friends

The question that is at the forefront of Natural Theology is, "Do humans have the capacity or ability to receive revelation from God, through nature, apart from Christ and/or the biblical text?" Emil Brunner and Karl Barth were not only contemporaries, but friends, that is, until Brunner’s pamphlet on natural theology hit the press and openly attacked the stance of his friend Barth. In this post I will provide an overview of both Brunner and Barth’s positions on the topic of natural theology followed by a critique of their arguments. The aim of this essay is to provide the reader with a concise understanding of Natural Theology and encourage personal reflection on the topic of natural theology both inside and outside of the Church.

Brunner’s main focus in his pamphlet is on the imago Dei and the capacity to which humans still posses that image of God after the fall and corruption as a result of the fall. He contends that humanity has not lost the “function or calling”[1] as image bearers, but it has been tainted by sin and continues to exist within the sinful human being. The relationship of God and man is the key component of his thesis. Brunner goes on to argue that Scripture itself “upbraids man for not acknowledging”[2] the revelation that is seen through the creation. The capacity of humans to be addressed, to know, and to have responsibility are three essential characteristics of a human being that must be present by definition and in that as image bearers. In addition, the effects of the fall are not just felt within humanity, but nature as a whole has been affected both objectively and subjectively. “But it is not affected so much as to render the will of God, the “rule” of nature invisible.”[3]

Since God has given us two forms of revelation, natural revelation and the revelation in Christ, according to Brunner, the focus must shift away from whether or not natural theology (revelation) is possible and towards the relationship between the revelation in Christ and that in nature. For Brunner, Christ is the only avenue through which one is able to access the true “theologia naturalis.” The objective natural knowledge of God that can be obtained through nature is capable of leading one to Christ and providing further understanding of who God is once abiding in the grace of Christ. He points to the Reformers, in contrast to Roman Catholic doctrine, to lean on their belief that “no statement concerning nature can be quite correct unless Christ be taken into account.” [4] Christ is always the culmination of natural revelation and the giver of divine revelation, but Brunner does not seek to extinguish any value of natural theology in the lives of humans and the life of the Church.

In addition, he seeks to make it clear there has been significant damage done by misguided natural theology; however he believed that the distortion and corruption of natural theology should not cause the Church to all together abolish it. He in fact applauds Barth for his vehement defense of the faith from perversions that have arisen out of natural theology. When speaking on the misguided natural theologies of the past and present he said, “The fact that there is a false apologetic way of making contact does not mean that there is not a right way.”[5] The overall belief of Brunner is that God does reveal himself through nature, but one is not able to attain a salvific knowledge of God outside of Christ and nature will never be able to provide humanity with a “true” knowledge of God.

The area of natural theology was dramatically changed when Karl Barth entered the discussion. Barth had a particular disdain for natural theology and the title of his response to Brunner was simply, NO! He believed that natural theology risked the “ultimate truth” of the Church and must be stood against on all sides. “Every attempt to assert a general revelation has to be rejected.”[6] For Barth, all of theology centered on Christ and the cross, and to seek to understand anything apart from Christ was futile and heretical.

The main argument of Barth against Brunner is that of the ability of corrupt humanity. He takes particular contention with Brunner’s idea of “preserving grace.” Barth sees “preserving grace” in direct contradiction with the Reformers concept of sola gratia. The reason why he has such a difficult time with a preserving grace is because of the value it gives to the “natural ordinances,” as defined by Brunner, and their necessary role in God’s overall plan for humanity and creation. He goes on to argue that Brunner contradicts himself when speaking of the capacity of humans to do good being lost, yet the capacity for revelation remaining. The illustration that he uses is of a person drowning and in need of a lifeguard to save them from death. If the drowning victim is able to provide any assistance for the lifeguard, then the saving act by the lifeguard is diminished. In the same way, if humans are capable of assisting in their own salvation even by “making a few good strokes” the magnitude of God’s saving act is decreased and sola gratia is no longer true. Again, Barth balks at any possibility of humanity to know God and his desires for us apart from divine revelation; then we should have been able to save ourselves, like the drowning swimmer.

In an attempt to strengthen his argument, Barth appeals to some key Pauline scriptures about his life in Christ and his life in the flesh. He contends that Paul’s description in I Corinthians 2 and Galatians 2 speaks of a transformation that only comes through a faith in Christ, and not from any worldly or fleshly discernment. Paul’s flesh has been “crucified with Christ.” This means, for Barth, that there is nothing good that existed in his flesh prior to his faith in Christ. Brunner has missed the mark in exegeting Paul, according to Barth, and is in need of “an angel from heaven who would call to him through a silver trumpet of enormous dimensions.”[7]

I resonate with Brunner’s belief that, “The experiential = knowledge of God is not made superfluous by faith in the Word of God, but on the contrary remains an important complement of the knowledge of God derived from Scripture.”[8] I cannot agree with Brunner in his assertion that one is “in relation with the divine truth” when they are doing anything scientific or artistic. On the other hand, I do not agree with Barth in his outright rejection of natural theology and natural revelation. I think he is wrong when he says, “For ‘natural theology’ does not exist as an entity capable of becoming a separate subject within what I consider to be real theology – not even for the sake of being rejected.”[9] I do agree that the Church is at risk when they allow natural theology to move too far outside of the bounds of the revelation in Christ and Scripture. I think that Barth allowed his emotions to drive much of his argument and in the end affect the overall tone of hit essay.

My hope is that this brief synopsis of Natural Theology will either begin stirring or continue to stir your heart and mind about the significance and controversy that is undeniably a part of natural theology. This is by no means an exhaustive review of Brunner and Barth’s arguments; however it does highlight some of the key areas that separate the one time friends. The debate over natural theology rages on today and has been directly impacted by both these men, both positively and negatively. The impact of Karl Barth on natural theology is still being felt today and the dialogue surrounding the topic is far from over.

[1] Brunner, Emil Natural Theology pg. 23

[2] Brunner pg. 24

[3] Brunner pg. 37

[4] Brunner pg. 46

[5] Brunner pg. 58

[6] Brunner pg. 74

[7] Brunner pg. 93

[8] Brunner pg. 38

[9] Brunner pg. 75

Intro. to Our Dialogue on Natural Theology

Standing atop a 14,000 foot peak in the Rocky Mountains, one is overwhelmed with the enormity of our world. Diving among the coral reefs of the South Pacific, one is in awe of the intricacies of marine life. Gazing into a telescope on a clear night, one is shrunk by the vastness of our universe. All of these are feelings that people experience when they are "communing with nature." So what about God? Are all of these countless experiences proof for the existence of God? Did God design and create "nature" in such a way that we would have no excuse but to worship Him? The topic of natural theology is something that I have taken a particular interest in over the last nine years. In this next series of blog postings I will be inviting you into dialogue on this complex topic. I will be writing about books that I have read, conversations that I have been involved in, experiences that I have had, and research that I have done all focusing in on natural theology. What is the role of natural theology? How has it been addressed in the past? Is there a value outside of apologetics for natural theology? Is natural theology a form of worship? What are we worshiping when we do natural theology?

For centuries, natural theology has been defined as a philosophical pursuit to prove the existence of God through the rational examination of nature. It has been seen as a primarily apogetical discipline that focuses on the revelation that can or cannot be obtained through nature. The term "nature" is being used for more than just plants, trees, and even the Earth. The universe, the human body, animals, plants, the processes of the "natural" world, and much more are under examination within the parameters of natural theology. What can we know about God through nature, whether it be through study or simple experience? This is the ultimate question that drives natural theology.

As I embark/continue on this journey I am personally inviting you to join me. The mystery of the blog, to me, is whether or not people are actually reading what I am writing. If a blog is posted on the Internet, but is never read, does it really matter that it was posted? I cherish your thoughts, questions, challenges, and involvement of any kind. I will be posting a minimum of five essays about particular books that I will read, at least one post about a survey that I will be doing, and at least one post about the research paper that will be the culmination of this particular study. You will help guide some of the posts, depending on your interactions, so come on, lets enter into this dense forest that is natural theology, together.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

You can't judge a berry by it's color!

Have you ever eyed up the strawberries in the produce section and simply began to salivate at their deep red hues? Those plump red morsels screaming at you to take a bite and taste the succulent juices that they have trapped within them. So you cave in and buy a package, or two, and head home to indulge in some of the seasonal sweeties. You carefully open the package, wash each berry by hand and chomp down. The only problem is you do not feel the softness of a ripe berry or feel the juices explode onto your taste buds, you simply taste a bland, hard piece of fruit that resembles a strawberry. I had this problem this morning when I went to eat my breakfast. I was ecstatic about cutting up some strawberries and sprinkling them into my morning pan of oats, only to find the bright red exterior of the berries to be a facade. The inner heart of every berry I cut was whitier than a piece of copier paper. This made me long for the sweet juicy berries I had plucked from my garden only days ago. This made me think about the "fresh" produce we are buying at our local grocery stores. Are we really getting "fresh" produce or are we getting produce that has been genetically modified for extended shelf life and packaged so that each berry would ripen on it's journey to my local store? How sad it is that many people do not know what a REAL strawberry tastes like. Billions will never have the opportunity to experience the bliss that comes when the sugary sweet juices gush into your mouth, and often drip down your face (and occasion onto your shirt). We have been so deceived into thinking that the produce we buy at the store tastes the way God intended it to. Oh to pick a strawberry from the vine and simply suck off the supple berry from it's stem. To pop a handful of FRESH blueberries into your mouth and chomp down. I encourage everyone to seek out their local berry farmers, farmers markets, and wild berry bushes to experience what summer berries really are to taste like. Take some time to experience some berry bliss, you will never look at your local grocery store produce the same again.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What gets you out of bed?

So the question I have been pondering over the last week is...what gets you out of bed in the morning? As I was home over the 4th of July I could not wait to roll out of bed at 5:30 am to hit the lake for some skiing, but others were not nearly as excited. Some think I am nuts that I roll out of bed before the sun is up to log a 15-20+ mile run on my day off. So what is it that gets you up in the morning? Is it the smell of pancakes and bacon? A early morning hike in the woods? Glassy water on the lake? Your running shoes? Quiet time with the Lord? Your workout partner? Maybe it is, "Mommy/Daddy can we get up?" For some of you it is probably needing to use the facilities! Is it fresh powder on the mountain? WORK? Every morning that my alarm goes off and I attempt to shake the fog out of my head I think about why it is that I am not simply staying cozy under my covers in dreamland. I am certain that getting up before our bodies are physically ready to be done sleeping is not the best thing from a health standpoint, but lets face it, it is necessary. So what gets you out of bed in the morning? Maybe it is the biting walleye on the lake? Or the thirty point buck awaiting you in the woods? The next time you pull yourself out of bed before it is even remotely wise, cherish what it is that causes you to leave the friendly confines of your warm soft bed and know that I am right there with you!

Monday, June 9, 2008

My entrance to the blogoshpere

So here I go!   I thought for the longest time that I would avoid the world of blogging, until a brilliant professor of my suggested I use it for an independent study.  I am not sure who will even take the time to read what I write, but I know that the writing will be equally as theraputic even if it is not read by a soul.  This morning on my run I noticed that I had a peculiar running partner for some time, a small puff of cotton from one of the thousands of cottonwood trees here in the Cities.  I was on mile five and just soaking in the refreshing morning when I noticed it sailing along perfectly in sync with my pace.  I am not sure if I was moving that slow or it was just that the cotton was moving that fast!?!?  As I was admiring my running partner I thought to myself, this would make a great blog entry, that is if I had a blog to enter it into!  I wonder where my partner ended up?  Will it ever put down roots and become it's own tree?  Would I have noticed it if my daughter had not left my ipod playing all night and ran out the batteries leaving me to run in silence this morning?  

Well I hope that this blog is beneficial to not only myself and my independent study, but also may strike a chord with any of you who stumble upon it and happen to read it.  I know that not all the posts will be beneficial for all of you, but my hope is that you may find some of them at the very least entertaining, if not thought provoking.  For now I must go and finish peeling my carrots.  May this day find you looking for the simple mysteries of life that are floating along like a simple cottonwood puff.