Saturday, August 11, 2018

Story: Function, Form, and Features

The function of story is:
1) Communicative -- it is how we talk to each other
2) Locative -- it is what we live in, we live in a metanarrative
3) Formative -- it forms our way of thinking and acting
4) Emotive -- it evokes our feelings, our emotions

The form of story is:
Beginning, Middle, and End (according to Aristotle)

The features of story are: 
Character, Setting, and Plot                                        I

Friday, August 10, 2018

Propositions & Poetry; Story & Power

Propositions and poetry do indeed communicate with power. Absolutely. But that power is only on loan to them from their fountainhead, story. Any life-blood the twins proposition and poetry inherently possess comes to them directly from the very heart of a grand story or metanarrative. Take away that story and you take away, not only the power, but any sense of meaning or life whatsoever. State any proposition -- with all its boldness and bluntness. The proposition means nothing outside of story. Read any poetry -- with all its word pictures and figures of speech. The poem means nothing outside of story. Such is the power and place of story in communication. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Knowing everything

Just a short thought that's been rolling around in my head lately. Here goes: Any person who already knows everything is going to have an exceptionally difficult time learning anything. It's one thing to consider this statement in relation to human beings -- a shameful indictment, to say the least. It's quite another to consider it in relation to the One Being who is truly omniscient -- the only One who categorically cannot learn anything, ever.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Orality -- Older than Dirt

            A few weeks ago I listened once again to the famous “I have a dream” speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a fiery speech. It stirred a lot of blood in a lot of veins. It is a prime example of the power of the spoken word. And being a fan of speeches, I also recently listened to one of Adolf Hitler’s speeches. Talk about rousing the troops! Again, the power of the spoken word. But these speeches, in fact, all speeches of all speakers in all culture at all points in world history do not hold a candle to the power of the spoken word when orality first echoed it’s way through the universe it just created. That was a long time ago.
            Yes, orality is older than dirt – literally. Dirt came about on the second day of creation; orality burst onsite even before the sunrise of the first day. “And God said[1]; there we have it – the genesis of orality in the Genesis of the Bible. The Trinity did not hold up a placard with “Let there be...” written on it – like some pontificating director freshly hired from Universal Studios; rather one of the trio merely said words. And the power of those words, which was merely an extension of the power of the One who spoke them, was the metaphorical “big bang” that initiated the universe. To the non-believer those words might still sound like a really big explosion, but that is only because they have not learned to interpret the language. That not-so-humble beginning was not the result of some giant impersonal scientific petri dish experiment, but of the Divine Creator Trinity saying something. Orality was the one and only instrument in bringing into existence the trillions of galaxies of which we and our small planet are a part.

[1] As if the “God said” were not enough, we must not neglect the seemingly innocuous opening conjunction of that phrase – the and. In the first thirty-four verses of the Bible this conjunction is used one hundred and two times. It is a Hebraic rhetorical tool for giving emphasis. Genesis opens with “In the beginning, God.” God being the all-important subject. Then, like “a lamp through the whole of this introduction (1:1 – 2:3)” and is used over and over and over to highlight the majesty of this Creator God. (See Bullinger, ­The Companion Bible, 3.) It is further worth noting that each of the following books of the Pentateuch begin with and – emphasizing the continuity of these five books of Moses. We may even say that each of the following sixty-five books of the Bible could (metaphorically speaking) begin with and – emphasizing the fact that the Bible is one comprehensive, complete, cohesive story.

Orality & Eavesdropping on the Trinity

            Confession time: when no one is around I sometimes talk to myself – out loud. I would hate to think someone might be eavesdropping in on some of those super private conversations. The eavesdropper might be inclined to think it was time I was relegated to one of those “special homes”.
            Imagine with me, however, if we could eavesdrop (in eternity past – long before the “in the beginning” of Genesis 1:1) on the Trinity as God talks to himself/themselves. What would we see or hear in terms of God’s internal and eternal communication method? I believe we would all likely agree that we would not see the Trinity writing and passing notes to each other. They would not be using literacy as their means of communication. For starters there is nothing except God; so that leaves out pencils, pens, digital writing sticks, paper, and print outs. No, we would not see reading and writing; they are ruled out. But might we hear something. Would we hear some totally foreign language? Would we hear strange unintelligible holy sounding dialogues? Would we hear three distinct voices: the majestic baritone voice of the Father, the common very-human sounding voice of the Son, and the soft comforting voice of the Holy Spirit? Whereas, we might be inclined to tacitly think the Trinity would be talking to themselves in the kind of orality we are privy to this side of Genesis 1:1, such a thing would be just as out of the question as the passing of written notes. For, once again, there is only God. There is nothing outside of God. There is no air, no sound waves. Not to mention there are no mouths, no tongues, no lungs to aspirate consonants. In fact, there are no consonants. And there are no ears with all those intricate components to pick up on the vibration that do not exist from the sound waves that also do not exist.

            It is true, the Trinity communicates constantly with each member therein, but not through literacy and not through orality. These two communication methods came about, along with time and space, when everything other than God came into being. Orality, along with literacy, is not eternal. It had a beginning - a rather grandious beginning.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Heidegger & the Importance of Place

Place is an interesting subject. It does not get nearly the attention it deserves. How many of us spend sunny afternoons meditating on that subject? It seems innocuous; hardly worth a first glance, let alone a second. But place is no small matter. Where would we be without it? Not a lot is written on the subject. It is not one of the subjects that has earned space (or, a place) in our theology books. Leonard Hjalmarson is one who has written on the topic.[i] His book, No Home Like Place: A Christian Theology of Place[ii] deals with the place of land in Scripture, borrowing and building off Walter Brueggerman’s view that “land is a central, if not the central theme of biblical faith. Biblical faith is a pursuit of historical belonging that includes a sense of destiny derived from such belonging.”[iii] Having lived among various cultures that put much stock in land and place, I agree that a study of God’s perspective on the subject is a worthy and profitable endeavor.

It is clear that both Brueggerman and Hjalmarson are writing of place as actual physical land; however, that aspect does not touch on the much broader concept of place. This broader concept goes beyond “a particular location or space or the particular area normally occupied by something. An example of place is Manhattan.”[iv] To understand this broader use of the term, a few examples of how we often use place in the English language might be helpful: “What do you consider to be the place of the husband in a family?” Or, “Watch it, buddy, you are out of place.” Or, “Sacrifice occupies an essential place in the work of redemption.”[v] Or, what place does gardening have in a discussion concerning legitimate Christian ministry?” Or, “To anticipate: what is “the meaning of the text” if it is not the author’s intended message? The short answer is that the author is never really absent. The reader has simply taken his or her place.”[vi]

See how the word is used; often it is not referring to ‘a particular location or space or the particular area normally occupied by something.’ It is this broader nuance and usage of the word that I want to explore. Place, used in this non-location fashion, refers to things like role, purpose, function, situation, and condition; but might be best described (borrowing from Heidegger) as a mode of being or a form of existence.

In his book, Being and Time, Martin Heidegger speaks to this broader concept of place. The basis of his work centers on the concept of ‘mode of being.’ He informs is that "taking up relationships towards the world is possible only because dasein, as being-in-the-world, is as it is. This state of being does not arise just because some entity is present-at-hand outside of dasein and meets up with it. Such an entity can ‘meet up with’ dasein only in so far as it can, of its own accord, show itself within a world.”[vii]

What Heidegger means by “dasein, as being in the world” is a kind of is-ness or present-ness in the world that transcends ordinary location. He is not referring to what our handy GPS device does for us. He is not referring to something or somebody merely taking up space, but rather he is alluding to what he refers to as dwelling. And by that, he has in mind belongingness, role, purpose, function, situation, and condition. In line with Heidegger, I submit that place (in the broad anthropological sense) is where something belongs because of it's inherent communally perceived role in the world. And, mind you, I are referring to where everything is perceived to belong – that’s every thing, every perception, and every idea. Where people place things is no small part of a community's comprehensive view of the world.

[i] See a synopsis of other works regarding a theology of place at Next Reformation, A Theology of Place, accessed on May 16, 2016,

[ii] Leonard Hjalmarson, No Home Like Place: A Christian Theology of Place (Portland: Urban Loft Publishers, 2014).

[iii] Ibid., 37.

[iv] “Place,” Your Dictionary, accessed April 1, 2016 (really, no fooling),

[v] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 92.

[vi] Vanhoozer, 1998, 90.

[vii] Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962), 12:84.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Enlightenment Part 6 - You're Not Allowed to Say that Word!

A colleague and I were giving a presentation on the need to adequately understand a community (or a culture) before speaking into it with clarity and confidence. It was the third day, just after the noon meal, a time in seminar land equivalent to “the wall” in a full marathon. It is a time when otherwise normal, exuberant grownups find themselves prone to drift into a former era known as naptime. Suddenly one of the seminar participants (who happened to be awake and, at the same time, a hermeneutics professor) piped up, “Oh, I know what you guys are talking about, you are talking about exegeting a community!” It was a wakening moment. Normally the word exegesis is used exclusively in the world of hermeneutics. Here it was being unapologetically extricated from that world and used (metaphorically and accurately) to describe the concept and process of which we were speaking. In response to this perceptive and positive comment I replied (more than half joking and definitely not realizing the prophetic nature of my remark), “Precisely. And that is why I am going to someday write a whole chapter on the subject of eisegesis.” This statement seemed to snap anyone even thinking of napping from their slide into slumber. No more nodding heads. No more glazed looks. I had said (and meant) eisegesis, not exegesis. In that particular context, that non-slip of the tongue was about as close to blasphemy as one would want to venture. Advancing eisegesis to the position of warranting a full chapter was equivalent to cheering (loudly) for a visiting hockey/ baseball/basketball/ football/soccer team while seated in the hometown cheering section. Not the wisest course of action.            
            Eisegesis,” the professor snapped back, “in my hermeneutics class I don’t allow the students to even use that word! I forbid the use of the word!” He was absolutely serious. Eisegesis was a nine-letter word – more than twice as bad as the four-letter variety.
            I admit that eisegesis is the pest of biblical hermeneutics. But it is a huge mistake to simply ban it to the woodshed. Pretending it does not exist effectively adds to its innate influence. Fantasizing that it has no place in the hermeneutical enterprise is ludicrous. If we dig into our history and our stories we can go a long way toward discovering the wellspring of our prejudice. That recognition should then, in turn, go a long way toward enlightening and improving our interpretation of reality. This short foray into the Enlightenment is but a start.

            I believe we need to understand eisegesis to the same degree we do exegesis. I believe we need to pay as much attention to eisegesis as we do exegesis. I believe that if we insist on a set of rules of exegesis, then we need the same for eisegesis. That is my bias.