Monday, 30 July 2007
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under Patristics
, Theosis  Comments
I was hunting for an Eastern Orthodox commentary on Romans, which I couldn’t find (at least in English), but I stumbled across this new book: Deification in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition: A Biblical Perspective, by Stephen Thomas. (see also here). It looks interesting and, at least by the title, very relevant to my project. I’ll have to get the department to order it for the library to see how good it is. His doctorate is from Durham, so it must be good. : )
Sunday, 29 July 2007
We finished off our Holiday Club (~VBS) today. The pastor and the woman who ran HC all last week was out of town, so I was asked to fill-in on stage. (I made some comment about being third string to someone, but that doesn’t really communicate here. Most UK sports have very few subs and back-ups like in the US, so you typically don’t have much of a second string, much less a third.) I’ve preached before, but this was the first service that I ran from start to finish. It was a cooperative effort to plan, and I thought it came off pretty well although I began to appreciate the tension of change (e.g., more choruses instead of hymns, modern version of the Lord’s prayer, etc.) for older congregations.
Anyhow, our HC went very much like a VBS in the states. Since our congregation (with attendance averaging in the 70′s, I think) is older (avg age around 55-60), I was pleased to see about 30 kids show up for the week. It was unfortunate that the only non-regular kids that came back today for the wrap-up service was a family who regularly attends an anglican church down the street.
During the week I led the year 4-6 table (~grade 4-6), and had a good time, but the girls were definitely all chatty. One who was visiting grandparents in the church noted that she was a Mormon. Another kid asked her if she’s learned Latin yet. She said no. And he said, well Latin is what Mormons speak, and others agreed. I thought to myself, ‘No, Mormons started in the US, so it would be English.’ But then it hit me, he was talking about Romans! and I was able to clear up the confusion.
One other thing I learned is that a high percentage of people take their summer holidays (they don’t use the word ‘vacation’) in the rest of Europe. Most of the kids in my group said they were heading to France, Portugal, or Spain some time in the next few weeks.
Saturday, 28 July 2007
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under International Life Leave a Comment
We just finished the first week of six of summer holidays, but near the end of the last term my son requested a change in sandwiches in his lunch. Ever since he started school back in the states, he’s primarily wanted PB&J as his main dish. That continued here until recently. He’s been eating PB&J (that is, peanut butter and jam, not ‘jelly’ b/c jelly=jello), but his friends have regularly told him how gross that combination must be. One minor reason–english peanut butter is more runny and not as good, so it’s not nearly as popular as in the US. The major reason though has to do with savoury/sweet rules: in a good english meal you will not mix savoury (salty/non-sweet) food items with sweet items (this is also similar to the separation of cold and hot breakfast items), so PB&J is a big social faux pas (sp?) for 7 year olds. For instance you don’t have syrup on pancakes, but ketchup is acceptable, so I hear. So he’s now resorted to requesting ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. He says it’s not only the peer pressure but after two years of PB&J he wants a little more variety, too, which I can understand. I’m certain that I do similar things, but just more unconciously, so it’s interesting to see how he adjusts to a different culture.
Saturday, 28 July 2007
I’ve been a Richard Foster fan since high school, and one of my all-time favorite books is his Streams of Living Water–it’s a good mix of spiritual disciplines, historical biography, and ecclesial traditions. Anyhow, ever since reading about the life of simplicity in his Celebration of Discipline, I’ve been interested in pursuing it further because of the extended ability to give, social justice, etc. However, I discovered that the foundation of life in the US is busyness and consumerism, and it’s hard to break free from those cultural forms. So when we moved to England and sold 85% or more of our physical possessions, it felt very freeing. So much that we accumulated wasn’t as ‘necessary’ as we thought it was. Plus here in Durham, our pace of life is much slower than Dallas, it has been a great change. But as we settled here, we’ve slowly but surely accummulated a sizeable portion of possessions again, though it has slowed down significantly in the past few months as we finished the transition.
Anyhow, the question that prompted the blog is how to teach my kids about simplicity, and for them to value it. My youngest literally asks for every toy in Tesco when we pass by them–fortunately it’s set in an area that we can easily avoid. But they both have the ‘gimmes’ like any normal kid. They also have great families–aunts/uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents that are more than generous, but they overflow with gifts at holidays and birthdays. It’s great that they get a show of love from family, but it seems like too much for them. Talking with Heather, I think we’re going to pare down our gifts and put money away for them instead. I’d love to just ask for family members to send money to help the kids save, but kids don’t recognize the value of that gift as much as a book or toy, and who wants to be know as just giving practical gifts. Living internationally complicates things too, because gifts become much more expensive because of shipping. Does anyone have ideas about how you treat this in your family?
Friday, 27 July 2007
I just finished Mark Reasoner’s Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation. I thought it was an ingaging book that not only dealt with the key aspects of Romans but also took the reader through central Western interpretations of the book. His basic thesis is that current scholarship is returning to the key themes that Origen, as one of the earliest commentators on Romans, focused upon.
In his analysis he has both primary and secondary authors for interaction. The primary are Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Abelard, Luther, Barth, and Post-Barthian writers (i.e., New Perspective and Narrative approaches). The secondary primarily include Pelagius, Erasmus, and Calvin, among other writers that are relevant for particular topics.
This was much closer to what I expected from Reading Romans Through the Centuries would be. Since it is the same author interacting with each historical writer, he compares and contrasts specific items that are relevant to both the letter and the writer. He has chosen 12 loci of importance and debate in the book and uses those for comparing the different historical writers. Only one is outside of Romans 1-11, which he notes is a weakness, but it reflects past theological emphases and debates surrounding the book.
Probably the biggest knock I have against the book is the (almost) total lack of eastern writers. Origen could possibly fall into that category, but other than that, there are no other eastern writers. While I know that he is writing for a western, protestant audience, it would be nice to get at least one representative author that discusses Romans from a eastern, and for that matter, also from a RCC point of view. That would at least provide a little more depth to some of the topics. This neglect is even more interesting since Reasoner notes multiple times that the international growth of the church outside the ‘west’ will change the direction that interpretations of Romans will take. At times protestant authors are set against one another, but are really not that far from one another when compared to other faith traditions. Reasoner doesn’t fall into this trap much but it would be helpful to see a broader group. At the same time, I was a little surprised to not have Bultmann and/or Käsemann as discussion partners as well.
Overall, it was a nice read that provides a nice mix of biblical and historical theology. It provides a good summary of Western interpretations of Romans.
Friday, 27 July 2007
This is a response to a question I got in my Cambell review about whether the PPME is growing in relation to JF. My answer was getting so long that I thought I’d do a post. My pauline theology is getting better but some of the finer details stand to be corrected, or probably major one’s as well, so if any of you see places to correct, please do. So off we go…
The PPME is just Cambell’s terminology, but in general it is gaining more momentum. Here’s kinda the modern history… JF was one, well really the main focus of the reformation, as you know. Along with combatting other things Albert Schweitzer’s Mysticism of the Apostle Paul argued for what could be termed a ‘participationist eschatology’ in Paul (or PE). At the time of writing it didn’t make the make big inroads into scholarly opinion–as Barth, Bultmann, and Käsemann all stayed with the JF model (though eschatology became to be much more integrated).
So come along E.P. Sanders. He proposes that 1st century Judaism wasn’t really about legalism; it was also a religion of grace. Well, that causes a little problem for the JF model in the grace/law model that we have inherited from Luther. Sanders, as chose Schweitzer’s PE model as what he thinks Paul is talking about. So, along with others, Sanders helped form the basis of the ‘New Perspective on Paul’ movement (NPP). Don’t you love all the acronyms.
The NPP movement has waned some as time passed, but it has definitely reshaped current views towards Paul’s Jew/Gentile discussions–Paul is dealing much more with promoting a gospel that unites these two groups (more of a corporate focus than the individual focus as thought before). Anyhow, N.T. Wright is a main writer in this area. Although, he may be more in the SH camp. (Somebody, help me out here that is more up on Wright.)
Campell, then, is following in this stream. Although, I’m not sure he would term himself as NPP. His goal then was to refine what Schweitzer and Sanders had promoted by adding Pneumatalogical & Martyrological to the Participationist Eschatology model, thus the PPME. I like the direction he’s going, but just didn’t think he did much to really get us there.
In fact, much of my work is to help better define Paul’s theology in this area. It’s regularly commented that there is no definitive English-language work that captures Paul’s theology in this area. Not that my thesis plans to be that, but hopefully it will move the discussion closer. Hopefully, the discussion of theosis (or union with God) will help us understand what union with Christ (read: participation in Christ) in Paul means.
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
I was asked about how many books to bring recently, and I knew I had responded to somebody’s question about books to buy, but I could never find it. It was hidden in the comments of one of my summaries of Bultmann–it turns out that the search function of wordpress only works for posts and not comments. Anyhow, these are the ones I came up with. Any responses?
My criteria for buying books are these: 1) Is it something that I will need to write about (so the need to mark it up). 2) Is it something that I’ll read at least twice if not multiple times? 3) Is it worth the cost and hassel of moving it around? 4) Is it a classic? 5) Can I get it cheap? So that means I probably check out more stuff and copy important sections.
Through seminary and after (especially when I was moving), I was very anti-purchasing books if they were easily accessible in the library. But now that I’m here, I’m swinging more towards the middle. Get the core books, but save the money from the others for other things. One other note: Obviously, the electronic versions of large sets (TDNT, etc.) would be the way to go there, especially for reference items that have shorter articles.
Bringing Books Overseas
I shipped 7 boxes over, and I think that I’d bring less over than I did. I brought my Pauline NT commentaries, a few other general NT works (Aland’s synopsis, etc.), several Greek tools (mostly intermediate grammars), and then also a few other general theology and OT stuff.
First off, try to get electronic copies of stuff, but that’s probably obvious. My main criteria are 1) almost all should be in your subject area, 2) only bring books you’ll reference more than once. (so that means directly related to thesis research) 3) Bring what you can’t easily get at your school’s library. 4) Is is worth the expense of shipping both ways? Not only do you have to pay to ship them here (which now more expensive b/c even though M-bags are still here, there are only air and not surface, see here and here), but also to ship them home later. From a friend who just moved back to the states, it’s apparently much more expensive going back. 5) Is it worth the space? Generally, living quarters are smaller here, and space may be an issue. Fortunately, I haven’t hit that issue yet.
I’ve found that commentaries are the major thing that I’ve used more than once, while some others are just collecting dust, at least now. In the end I’d say do your list up and then pare it back by a box or two. Then have that 2nd tier set aside so if family/friends are coming over then you can have them bring volumes from there that you might need later. Then if you don’t need them, you don’t have to worry about them.
If anyone knows the trick to get books back home cheaply, pass along the word.
Monday, 23 July 2007
Here’s a brief review of Douglas Campbell’s – The Quest for Paul’s Gospel
Thesis: The JF (Justification by Faith) model of salvation should be rejected in light of the PPME model (Pneumatologically Participatory Martyrological Eschatology), which includes the SH (Salvation Historical). In Romans the different models usually focus on different chapters in the book — JF: 1-4, PPME: 5-8, SH: 9-11.
He argues for this thesis from a high-level (“strategic”) point of view, which is more from a theological and philosophical aspect and then tests it on certain passages.
- Clear thesis
- Did a nice job of laying out the big picture with the 3 main options for the models.
- Has highlighted a (if not the) central theme in Paul, which is not a currently popular task, but I think it’s good to analyse these things.
- Details theological and philosophical consequences of the models, particularly of the JF model
- I really liked Ch 4: the Narrative dimension of Paul’s Gospel, particularly since it is one of the first times I’ve come across narrative readings (which shows that I’m still really a neophyte in Pauline studies)
- He highlights often the lack of continuity between Judaism (the Law) and God’s work through Christ in the JF model. This seemed to be a weakness in S. Westerholm’s book (Perspectives Old and New on Paul), and, according to Douglas, of all consistent JF people.
- Relies too much on unsupported assertions, many that will be explained in forthcoming works. For instance that Rom 5-8 is the center of Paul’s argument in that letter. Proving this would seem provide some of the weightiest proof for his argument, but he just asserts it.
- As with most books that are a collection of previous essays, his argument in the book is not that linear. He picks up and drops off on his goal as he throws in different articles. As a result, he repeats topics and discussions as he returns to them in other essays.
- I was hoping for a more sustained construction of the PPME model. It seems that he spends a bit of time tearing down the JF and to a limited extent the SH models, but has not spent as much time building up the PPME model.
- After his pistis christou discussion, where he argues for an almost universal understanding of faithfulness for pistis, I was left unclear about how then one transferred into the PPME experience. He notes the work of the Spirit, which most all agree upon, but I wasn’t clear how it works since the idea of faith isn’t the historical one.
Monday, 23 July 2007
Posted by Ben C. Blackwell under Durham
, PhD Stuff  Comments
A couple of positive things to note:
1) People from other colleges can pay to have a membership at St. John’s library–I think it is £20. Apparently, this has been around a while and I just didn’t know about it because I was a member. Anyhow, I think this is great for people who want Ustinov housing, but don’t want to give up access to a close theological library. It’s my understanding, but I could easily be wrong, that Chad’s doesn’t allow this privilege, and it has some (but not near the amount of John’s) theological works. Also, one thing about John’s is that it has some theological journals that the main library doesn’t. Though neither seems to be overflowing with journals. John’s tend to be more pastoral and lay directed, but they have a handful that are core academic journals.
2) They are currently in the process of re-barcoding all the books in the library (i’m guessing about 10,000 volumes by my guestimate), so that you can see their books on the main library catalog. From talking with a friend that was involved in the process, it seems that they are nearing the completion of the re-coding process. I’m not sure, however, when the two computer systems will be linked.
Sunday, 22 July 2007
Here’s basic thoughts about bringing electronics from the US to the UK. I’m not an expert on any of this but here’re things that worked for us.
General: We brought a voltage converter, but it’s sitting in a closet because in the end it’s easier to set things up so that they don’t need it. So it only gets used when visitors come. Beware that most voltage converters will not work for electronics anyway (if you read their instructions)–we blew a fuse the first time we tried to use it with our monitor, which turned out to have an internal voltage converter and didn’t need it anyway. Also, we brought a US power strip and tried to plug it in through one plug adapter, and then let stuff run off of it at 220, but it just blew out the fuse, so I would expect to just buy UK power strips and get individual plug adaptors.
Computers: In general I think it’s good to bring over any computer equipment that you can since prices for those sorts of things seem to be almost double than the cost in the US. Fortunately, most computers, monitors, etc. can take either 110 (as US) or 220 (as Europe) volts. So all you would have to buy a plug converter (versus a voltage converter). For a box computer, we just had to flip a voltage switch near where the power plug was to tell it 220 vs 110. As a side note, someone recommended just bringing our hard drive over and buying a new system here and adding the old HD to it to save on shipping expenses. But with computers being so much more expensive we just shipped it by USPS surface, which as I understand doesn’t exist any more (see here).
TV related: The US runs on the ‘NTSC’ standard, and Europe runs on ‘PAL’. Along with that, most TV related equipment here connects to one another with a ‘scart’ cord (instead of coax cable).
Gaming Systems (Playstations, etc.):From what I hear in the olden days (like 2+ years ago) that Playstations, etc. from the US wouldn’t even work on a UK TV set–I think primarily because US game systems didn’t have a scart connection. However, we were happy that our TV (basically the cheapest 20″ that we could find) came with the AV cord slots (the red, yellow, white plugs), and our US PS2 plays just fine here on this TV. However, PAL (i.e., European) games will NOT work on the NTSC PS2 unless you get a mod chip or something to unlock the system. We haven’t fooled with it. Also, the PS2 can run on 220 volts, so only need a plug converter.
DVDs: DVDs around the world all have a region code (US is region 1, Europe 2, etc.). So for a standard DVD player you get here in Europe, it shouldn’t play US region 1 DVDs. However, this problem can be easily taken care of through a couple of options: 1) Bring a gaming system from the US that plays DVDs (e.g., PS2, etc.) 2) Find a DVD player here that had decoding instructions on the internet that removes it’s region restrictions. Since we’ve got a PS2 (so option #1), we bought the cheapest UK player that we could find. It turns out that it plays about 1/3 of our US DVDs on its own, but we found a hack on the internet so it’s now region free. Your computer will also switch between regions, but I’ve heard that you can only switch 5 times (with Win XP, at least), and then it locks into whatever your last choice was, so not really a good way to go. However, we’ve found that VLC Media Player works (freeware) will play DVDs from multiple regions without having to switch.
Misc. Electronics: There could be a random assortment of things you might bring. For instance we brought our Vonage router and a wireless modem (but remember that in Durham there is only DSL, so a cable modem isn’t worth bringing). They both run on 9.6 or 12 volts or something like that. You can buy replacement electrical plugs here that convert from a 220v UK plug to the little round plug that goes into the back of those for about £9 to £10, and I thought that has been the best option for those. The plug you buy has 7 or 8 different size adapters, so one of them will fit into what you’ve got.
Landlines: The UK phone lines are set up with two types of phone cords. One is exactly like the US, and the other is flatter. You can buy an adapter that switches between the two for a couple of £’s. I think it’s actually illegal to use foreign cordless phones in the UK if you were thinking of bringing yours.
Mobiles (aka cell phones): If you have a 3 band GSM phone it should work fine here. A quad-band GSM phone will definitely work with no troubles. You just need to get the phone unlocked, which will probably be cheaper and easier to do in the US. On a trip over we used our Nokia phone (the cheapest that you could get free in the US) without any troubles–I’m pretty sure it was a 3 band. Most people just use pay-as-you-go sims b/c 1) it’s hard to get set up on a monthly plan b/c no credit history and 2) since the pace of life is slower it’s cheaper to pay by the minute than to have unused monthly minutes. See also the more extensive thoughts on this of a recent addition to Durham’s phd family.
Small Appliances: We didn’t bring any, but anything with a motor will probably have trouble working because they use different Hertz rating. In the US it is 60 or something, and 50 in the UK. This relates to cycles, so motors won’t run as fast or something. Anyhow, unless you’re shipping a whole load over, I wouldn’t recommend wasting luggage space and weight for things like this.
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