Archive for the ‘america’ Category
My feelings about SBL in general have not changed since the last time I went in 2006. There’s an awful lot of self-promotion and self-aggrandisement going on, not to mention the profiteering in the exhibition hall. However, I have to admit that I have enjoyed myself a lot more this time. Mainly this is because I know more people and have had more things lined up to fill the time. So, here’s my summary of how it went:
Friday: On the same flight from Philly to New Orleans as my former PhD advisor. Lots of time to catch up while waiting for the airport shuttle bus to our hotels. Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar discussing Ellen Davis’s book, ‘Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture’. Interesting discussions at the seminar and also over dinner, where I was at a table with another HTC student and a guy who is at Tyndale House.
Saturday: Started very early with the Tyndale House American Alumni breakfast. I checked everyone in, got to eat the breakfast, then had several useful conversations about the Tyndale Fellowship and Tyndale House. I think quite a lot of people appreciated having the chance to talk to someone on the admin staff, as well as the research fellows. In the afternoon, I gave my paper. I think that probably needs its own post. Dinner with old friends in the evening.
Sunday: Went to hear a friend’s paper in the morning and then we went for lunch together afterwards. Some interesting papers in the Hebrew Poetry section in the afternoon. In the evening, I’d arranged to meet a friend at the King’s College reception – these receptions with free food and drinks are excellent things for poor students.
Monday: Chatted to the Masons this morning, then went to a cookery demonstration at the New Orleans School of Cookery. The chef was Big Kevin (who some of my British readers may remember from the TV series Big Kevin, Little Kevin on BBC2 a few years ago). He was both hilarious and an excellent cook. We had biscuits with dark, thick cane syrup, then red beans and rice, cornbread, pecan pie and pralines. It was all delicious and I really shouldn’t have had seconds of everything but it was just too good to resist. Today was the first day it’s been sunny since I arrived in New Orleans, so after lunch I went for a walk along the river and a little bit around the French Quarter. This evening, I’m going to a dinner that John Hobbins has organised, and then tomorrow I’ll be flying home.
I have just watched Trouble in Amish Paradise, a BBC documentary about two extraordinary men who have been excommunicated from their Old Order Amish church. Both still live according to the Amish rules and among the Amish people. The reason for their excommunication? Meeting to study the bible.
It is amazing to hear Ephraim talk about how, after years of believing that rule-keeping would get him to heaven, he read the bible in English for the first time and realised that all he needed to do was to trust Jesus – like watching the Reformation happening all over again. Through the film we see how his family’s faith is put to the test again and again as they are excommunicated from the church, shunned by family members, and then suffer through a personal tragedy. But Ephraim never stops smiling when he talks about Jesus – and he loves to talk about Jesus! The reason that he chooses to stay living among the Amish people and attending the church from which he has been excommunicated is so that he can share the gospel with them. He knows it would be easier for everyone if his family just left. For his son’s birthday treat, Ephraim takes him to the nearest town to distribute evangelistic leaflets and share the gospel. When his daughter is taken into hospital, Ephraim takes every opportunity to talk to the nurses and doctors about Jesus. It’s wonderful to see his faith as he talks about his prayer that Marie will be healed but his trust that if she isn’t, she’ll be taken up to glory. (The narrator has to explain that he is talking about the possibility of his daughter dying, because Ephraim is still smiling.)
It had never previously occurred to me that there was a need for missionaries to the Amish communities. But now I will be praying for Ephraim and his wife, Amanda, for Jesse, and for others like them, not mentioned in the film, and for revival in this church which bears the name of Christ while knowing nothing of His saving grace.
If you’re in the UK, you can see the film on the BBC iPlayer for the next week.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I watch this programme. Quite often. Okay, every day. Almost. I generally find myself closing down the laptop and packing up my things at around 4.30pm just so I can get home in time for the business end of it.
If I were in charge, I’d rename it (after getting Noel Edmonds some better shirts, of course), ‘How Greedy Can One Person Be?’ If I were really serious, I’d do some real research but as it is, I’m going to make up the statistics:
73% of contestants end up settling for an offer lower than one they had previously been given.
98% of contestants willingly gamble sums of more than £10,000 in hopes of winning ten times that sum.
0% of contestants understand the basic principles of probability.
0% of Noel Edmonds understands the basic principle of probability.
4.5% of contestants do have the £250,000 in their box.
4.5% of contestants do have the 1p in their box.
0% of contestants are more or less likely than any other to have either the £250,000 or the 1p in their box.
100% = probability that, in the long run, the banker wins. Especially if you define ‘the banker’ as ‘the production company.’
Also, as another entry in my occasional ‘How the US is different from the UK’ series, it should be noted that in the UK version of the programme, there are no scantily clad models holding the boxes. Instead, they have a pool of contestants, all of whom are allocated a box and then at the start of the programme one is randomly chosen to play. The others stand around in a semicircle and do the opening of the boxes.
Not me, obviously, because I’m not American. But I do think that there is an interesting dilemma posed for some by Sarah Palin’s nomination as Republican vice-presidential candidate.
If you think Sarah Palin is a candidate who best represents your views and would do a good job, it is possible you may also think that Sarah Palin’s family is one that is likely to need a lot of hands-on parenting in the coming years.* Clearly not everyone agrees with either or both of these propositions, but I’m pretty sure there are quite a lot of people who agree with both. And if you do, then you have a dilemma. Do you vote according to what will be best for the country, or according to what will be best for the candidate?
I’m pretty certain that if you’re an employer (at least in the UK, don’t know about the US), you’re not allowed to make decisions about who to employ on the basis of their personal circumstances. But if you’re someone’s friend, or even more so, their pastor, then it is appropriate for you to caution them about taking a job which may be to the detriment of their family.
So if you’re a voter, are you an employer or a pastor? Do you decide for the corporation (country) or the children?
*I don’t think one has to get into a discussion of causality or blame to think this. As things stand, Sarah has five children, including a baby with special needs, a teenage daughter who is pregnant, and two other girls still at home. I’d say that those children don’t just need a few hours of ‘quality time’ here and there, they need parents who are a significant part of their everyday lives. And although it’s rather sweet seeing the pictures of Trig being carried around at the moment, that’s not going to work in a year or two when he’s starting to crawl and walk.
Last night I went out for a fabulous meal and it made me realise just how well I’ve eaten in the last couple of months. Some of the highlights have been:
A home cooked Bengali meal in London – lots of ‘mystery’ foods, but all delicious.
A Moroccan lunch at Souk, followed by ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s in Leicester Square.
A mixed cheese and meats platter at Ultra Comida in Narberth. This was really spectacular deli food, with a range of home-made breads (that came with free refills), 4 or 5 cheeses and half a dozen cold meats, all in generous portions that we didn’t finish, and some salad. Narberth isn’t exactly on the beaten track, but if you do happen to be nearby, it’s a really nice little town to visit with lots of cool shops and great places to eat.
Real fish and chips.
A full English breakfast cooked by the inimitable Marc Lloyd.
A delicious cream tea in one of the most picture-postcard villages I’ve ever seen, Somerleyton.
I’m sure there were many others that I’ve forgotten.
But last night’s dinner was one of the best I’ve eaten in America. A real meat eater’s paradise, Fogo de Chao is a Brazilian steakhouse. You can have one course (salad bar) or two (salad and meat) at a flat rate. Drinks and desserts are extra. The salad bar is the most upmarket I’ve ever seen. Prosciutto ham, a whole parmesan cheese to dig out of, mozzarella balls, asparagus, and all sorts of other delicious things. But the meat is what this restaurant is all about. They serve 15 different cuts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken, all of which are brought hot to the table and carved onto your plate. They just keep coming round for as long as you can keep eating. Which, it turns out, is quite a long time. The side dishes are good too – the best polenta I’ve ever eaten, fried banans, beans and rice, mashed potato… Twenty-four hours later, I’m still full.
This statement announcing Pete Enns’ departure from WTS has just been made public. I wonder what church historians will make of this in a hundred years time. Maybe it will be seen as nothing more than a blip in the progress of the kingdom. Perhaps it will be the beginning of the end for the seminary and all it represents. I hope it will prove to be the beginning of a new era of informed, intelligent, faithful biblical scholarship as Pete and many of his students scatter and pass on what they have learned.
Yesterday, I officially withdrew from WTS. There are mixed feelings, of course. A great sadness for the seminary and fear for its future. Uncertainties about my own future and sorrow at having to say goodbye to many dear friends here. Relief, excitement, and hope about the possibilities that are opening up and joy at being able to return to the UK. I’m glad that the Lord brought me here and I’m immensely grateful for all I’ve learned at WTS from the various members of the biblical studies faculty: Doug Green, Mike Kelly, Pete Enns, Steve Taylor, Dan McCartney and Vern Poythress. I’m a better scholar and a better Christian because of them. I have no regrets about coming and none about leaving.
I shall be continuing my PhD studies at Highland Theological College in the autumn, under the supervision of Jamie Grant. My dissertation will be on the canonical approach to the Song of Songs. I’ll be very glad to get back to the Song and I’m looking forward to starting the research proper. Though it has to be said that Dingwall is almost as far from home as Philadelphia. Oh well.
In the olden days (and yes, that means I have no idea when) kings and queens and their courts used to leave their comfortable winter palaces in the summer months to go on a summer progress, or tour of their realm. This is when they would stay with various highly-favoured subjects, bankrupting many in the process and allowing an enormous number of people to put up plaques saying “Queen Elizabeth slept ‘ere”.
In recent years I seem to have instituted my own version of the summer progress, thanks to many kind friends who are willing to put me up for a few days here and there. This summer, the tour will include:
- Southgate (and other parts of London)
- Royal Tunbridge Wells
and, of course, Stafford and Philadelphia. I’m hoping it will also include the New Jersey shore.
So far, it’s been fun, though exhausting and I’m looking forward to a quieter few days next week. Thanks, everyone! You’re very welcome to put up plaques in your guest rooms announcing that “Ros slept ‘ere.”
Or at least a step in the right direction. Willow Creek seem to have finally realised that church isn’t about becoming like the world but about teaching and building up its members so that they can win the world. It’ll be interesting to see how they respond when people start leaving the church as a result of the new onslaught of bible teaching.
(HT: Neil Robbie)