Conversational Theology

Archive for August 2009

How have I only just come across this gem from Ogden Nash? It totally sums up the attitude of most biblical scholars and preachers I know. A passing acquaintance with Byron’s The Destruction of Sennacherib will help.

Very Like a Whale

One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by the authors of simile and metaphor.
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,
Can’t seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have to go out of their way to say that it is like something else.
What does it mean when we are told
That that Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?
In the first place, George Gordon Byron had enough experience
To know that it probably wasn’t just one Assyrian, it was a lot of Assyrians.
However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus hinder longevity.
We’ll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.
Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold,
Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf on the fold?
In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there are great many things.
But I don’t imagine that among them there is a wolf with purple and gold cohorts or purple and gold anythings.
No, no, Lord Byron, before I’ll believe that this Assyrian was actually like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;
Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red mouth and big white teeth and did he say Woof Woof?
Frankly I think it is very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say, at the very most,
Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts about to destroy the Hebrew host.
But that wasn’t fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he had to invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate them,
With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers to people they say Oh yes, they’re the ones that a lot of wolves dressed up in gold and purple ate them.
That’s the kind of thing that’s being done all the time by poets, from Homer to Tennyson;
They’re always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,
And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket after a winter storm.
Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket of snow and I’ll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical blanket material and we’ll see which one keeps warm,
And after that maybe you’ll begin to comprehend dimly
What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.

Ogden Nash

‘The New Testament is pervaded by references to the Song of Songs, and all of them are based on the supposition that it is to be interpreted spiritually. Proportionally no book of the Old Testament is so frequently referred to, implicitly or explicitly, in the New Testament, as this one; and we cannot but be surprised at the superficiality or the prejudices of those who have asserted that the Song of Songs is never quoted in the New Testament.’

(Hengstenberg, Prologomena to the Song of Solomon, 297)

I’d love to join Karyn for a virtual course, reading and discussing Hofstadter’s “Gödel, Escher, Bach”. This is the course description:

How are math, art, music, and language intertwined? How does intelligent behavior arise from its component parts? Can computers think? Can brains compute? Douglas Hofstadter probes very cleverly at these questions and more in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Gödel, Escher, Bach”. In this seminar, we will read and discuss the book in depth, taking the time to solve its puzzles, appreciate the Bach pieces that inspired its dialogues, and discover its hidden tricks along the way.

It sounds absolutely fascinating and, even though I don’t think I have time for the reading, I’ll be checking out Karyn’s blog for the discussions.

Calvinist (Paul Helm)
Amyraldian (Michael Jensen)
Arminian (Ben Witherington)

Courtesy of Michael Bird at Euangelion

From the biblical notion that men should lead their wives, these guys infer that in order to make this possible, the wives must be hamstrung so that they, the rulers of their future roosts, don’t have to be challenged in any way. By way of contrast, the right response is to imagine a highly educated woman, and meditate on what it would take to win her respect.

Doug Wilson writes about the importance of educating women.

And I’m getting ready for my academic record to go through its annual devaluation.

See here for the figures.

News of James Robson’s new appointment to teach OT and Hebrew at Wycliffe Hall.

[Disclaimer: these posts are all about British Christian summer camps. I'm pretty sure that some of this is also relevant to the US system, but quite a lot of it probably isn't.]

I am by no means a neutral observer here. I became a Christian on a summer camp 19 years ago. For 16 years I returned to the same camps, first as a camper, then as assistant leader, cook, and leader. In 2006, when I was heading off to the US, I said a very weepy farewell to the leaders room. It was wonderful to go back year after year to the same place where I first heard the good news, to the place where I first learned how to read and later to teach the bible, to a place where I had seen countless examples of God’s grace and mercy. I miss camp very much, perhaps particularly this summer now that I am back in the UK. For various reasons it didn’t make sense to go this year, but maybe it will next year.

I first met Perks on camp in 1991, though we haven’t done camp together for a while. He has some great posts about:
what he loves about camp; how camp relates to church; and a subject which has always been dear to his heart, how to play sport on camp. My playing of sport on camp was pretty much limited to sitting somewhere very far in the deep field during leaders/campers crocker and hoping that the ball wouldn’t come anywhere near me. I think there was one year when Perks set me up to score the winning run, which was very pleasing.

I can’t remember how long I’ve known Jam, but we’ve certainly been doing camps together for a while. One of my great joys was hearing a sketch which I’d first seen performed as a late-night entertainment on camp, later being broadcast on Radio 4. He has a post on how to write funny stuff for camp.

I’ve never been on camp with Ruth Gledhill, but I did do camp for a number of years with Ed Drew, the leader of the camp featured in these articles from the Times about Christian summer camps by comparison with Richard Dawkins-sponsored atheist camp.

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Conversational theology:

the art of learning deep truths about God and man in the company of friends, whilst drinking tea and eating cake.

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