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).