Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Month: September 2006 (Page 2 of 2)

Life in the Margins: ESV journaling Bible

ESV Journaling Bible

ESV Journaling Bible

I have a confession to make: I have come to hate annotated Bibles. Maybe hate is too strong a word… I’ll still use them occasionally when preparing for a sermon, but by-in-large I find the insight they provide to be limited, along with their usefulness. Much more useful in my opinion, especially if someone has studied the historical context of scripture in more detail elsewhere, is in-depth study of the scripture themselves with personal commentary–that is, note taking, preferably with wide margins.

One of my college English professors used to say “If you’re reading and not writing you’re not thinking” and I took it to heart. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a wide variety of wide margin Bibles available, and none in the translations I would prefer to study with–RSV, NRSV and now the ESV. For a while the only attractive wide-margin version was the New Living Translation’s “Note-takers Bible,” which seems to have went out of print. Additionally, the NLT, whatever it’s strengths as an introductory translation, is not one that I would recommend for exegesis or critical study. Thankfully, I’m not the only person who’s been bemoaning this lack, and recently Crossway publishers has released a slick new “English Standard Version Journaling Bible” that adopts many of the best characteristics of moleskin notebooks. J. Mark Bertrand has written a review of the new format that I encourage visitors to take a look at.

The ESV is a wonderful translation and I’m glad to see that they are making a growing variety of styles available. Now all we have to do is convince Crossway or someone else to print an Anglican Version (With Apocrypha!) of the LCMS ESV/Daily Office bible. At any rate, I recommend this edition of the ESV to anyone interested in a note-taking bible with only one caveat, the print may be rather small for those with poor eyesight–hopefully there will be improvement in that area, but the typeface is clear even in the small font and that says something about the quality of the publication.

Technorati Tags: ,

A New Bible Commentary Series

I remember a conversation I had with one of my mentors about the visit Stanley Hauerwas paid to my seminary several years ago. During conversation someone asked Dr. Hauerwas what he would do if he were put in charge of a seminary. His response was classic Stan-the-man: “Fire all the bible professors” he said, “why?” someone asked “Because they’re all liberal protestants or reform Jews and don’t believe in the Bible anyway…how could they teach it to anyone?” The relation of that story made me think about my own memorable meeting with Dr. Hauerwas while I was in college. During our conversation a new commentary series was mentioned by Dr. Hauerwas, one that he was very excited about because it was a series of commentaries to be written by theologians rather than strict biblical scholars. He mentioned R.R. Reno as being involved, and that he would be writing the commentary on Matthew. Now I find that the series is out, three volumes having been published by Brazos in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. Hauerwas has indeed written his commentary on Matthew, and excitingly, the late Jaroslav Pelikan wrote the commentary on Acts.

All one has to do to guess the quality of this work is to take a gander at their list of editors and scheduled contributers.

Can you take a guess at some recent additions to my shelves?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Book Meme

My lovely wife Anna tagged me with a book meme several days ago and I have yet to reply to it. I hope this doesn’t make me a bad husband ;-). At any rate, it’s a pretty interesting meme….

1. One book that changed your life: I dunno…. I suppose the closest in the running would be “Mere Christianity” (C. S. Lewis)

2. One book that you�ve read more than once: “On the Incarnation: The Treatise De Incarnatione Verbi Dei” (Athanasius, St. Anhanasius)

3. One book you�d want on a desert island: “The Complete Far Side 1980-1994 (2 vol set)” (Gary Larson, Steve Martin)

4. One book that made you laugh: “The Tao of Pooh” (Benjamin Hoff) and “On Bullshit” (Harry G. Frankfurt)

5. One book that made you cry: “Where the Red Fern Grows” (Wilson Rawls, Wilson Rawls)

6. One book you wish had been written: How to not Screw Up: On Living Smoothly

7. One book you wish had never been written: The Left Behind Series.

8. One book you�re currently reading: “Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter” (Hans Urs von Balthasar) and “In the Beauty of the Lillies” (John Updike) (ok, ok, so that’s two… but I think I can get away with it…)

9. One book you�ve been meaning to read: “A Prayer for Owen Meany (Modern Library)” (John Irving)

10. One book you�d like to write: “On the Correct usage of Crushing Verbosity and Technically Incorrect Grammar”

Now Playing: Shifting Sand from the album “40 Acres” by Caedmon’s Call

Sermon for Proper 17b, Trinity Church Winchester

Title: Where is the Evidence of Our Faith
Scripture: Mark 7:1-8, 14-23
Proper 17b

How many people here today know a Pharisee? Raise your hands…
Don’t point, just raise your hand…
We know there aren’t any Pharisees here anyway…

But before we say that for sure, maybe we should figure out exactly what a Pharisee is…
The Pharisees weren’t “bad” people… in fact, if scholars were to attempt to place Jesus and his teaching within one of the streams of Jewish tradition of the day, he had the most in common with the Pharisees.

The Apostle Paul, once called Saul, was a Pharisee of a particular stripe and he says he studied under one of the most famous Pharisaic Rabbi’s of the day, Gamaliel.

Probably the same Gamaliel who convinced his fellow members of the council in Acts to spare the lives of the Apostles, saying: “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

So a Pharisee is someone who is deeply committed… but their commitments don’t prevent them from making poor judgements, or from being overzealous about the wrong things.

I know none of us have ever been overzealous about the wrong thing…

But think of Paul, who as Saul was one of the greatest enemies of the new faith, who in his zeal for the Law, became an oppressor of the early church.

Or think about the Pharisees from our gospel reading today… those religious folks who just couldn’t see the forest for the trees. You might even think of them as a bunch of religious bureaucrats: there’s a certain way things are done and that’s just the way it has to be…

Mark is very helpful here and explains the context of this meeting. Some of the Pharisees and some Scribes from Jerusalem have come out to hear what Jesus has to say, and while they’re there, they notice that the disciples are eating with unwashed hands… now the Pharisees believed (along with moms and nurses and especially moms who are nurses) that it was a sin to eat without washing your hands.
But to the Pharisees, it wasn’t just a bad thing to do, it “defiled” you, it made you and what you ate ritually unclean, and you would be expected to perform some sort of purification rite to get back in the good graces of God and your neighbor.

So the Pharisees and Scribes ask Jesus, “Why do your disciples not live by the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” They were probably surprised, maybe even offended by the fact that the disciples hadn’t washed their hands, and while they could have been trying to highlight Jesus’ lack of adherence to the tradition, they may just as well have expected him to correct his disciples for what they did.

After all, this was a holy man, a teacher… surely he would observe the traditions of the elders…

But Jesus doesn’t answer the question they ask, instead he explains a principle, taking the opportunity to challenge them on their acceptance of human commandments in the place of God’s commandments and then giving them his definition of defilement.

I joke with Anna sometimes that her standard stance toward tradition is a “why,” while mine, dusty history buff that I am, is often a “why not.” I think a lot of us fall into those categories… but not Jesus.

For Jesus the question about tradition isn’t why or why not, it isn’t even a question we Anglicans sometimes here from other protestant churches—“is it biblical?” as in explicitly commanded by scripture.

No, for Jesus the question seems to be whether or not the point of the tradition has been lost…but not only lost—perverted.

And Jesus certainly ran into enough perversion of tradition in his day.

People putting up barriers between others and God…

It’s called legalism. Sometimes we might say somebody is nit-picky, but what we mean is that for all their desire to do good, to do the right or correct thing, they’ve become narrow-minded and focused on small things… unable to see the big picture or understand why something was ever done in the first place. Legalism in religion can be a deadly thing.

And Jesus was dealing with legalists all the time—people who kept the letter of the law while neglecting its spirit—those who kept the rule even when it prevented them from doing the very thing the rule was meant to ensure.

There are many examples of this in Jesus’ ministry, in the parables that he told. One that sticks with me is in the parable of the Good Samaritan… sometimes people miss it, because they focus on who it was who finally helped the man who had been beaten and left for dead in that parable, i.e. the Samaritan. But at least as important are the people who passed him by. One of them was a Priest who not only passed the man by, he crossed to the other side of the street to avoid him.

The fact that he did this shows that he was probably a legalist. He didn’t know whether the man was alive or dead, so rather than risk ritually defiling himself, he passed the injured man by.

Similarly, Jesus contends with some of the religious leaders who would condemn him for healing on the Sabbath, since Jews weren’t supposed to do any labor on the Sabbath.

They missed the point you see… they forgot why they were ever given commandments, and they forgot the greatest commandment and the second: To Love God and to love neighbor.

So Jesus reminds them that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

In other words, religious commandments and traditions are there for a purpose… to help people in some way, whether in their personal lives or in their relationship with God.

If the evidence of faith were simply to keep the letter of the law, then the Pharisees, and the priest in the story of the Good Samaritan would have been perfect examples of faithful people.
But we can see that they are flawed…they forgot the reason why they were doing what they were doing…in following the letter of the law they were neglecting more important commandments.

People like this are sometimes the most frustrating to deal with because they are usually the hardest people to explain something to. No wonder Jesus gets aggravated at the Pharisees… no wonder he calls them hypocrites and challenges them. He has to do that to get their attention, to make them wake up.

Jesus is dealing with a bunch of religious bureaucrats and he has to shout to get their attention. To get their heads out of their… forms…

And eventually he decides it’s not worth talking to them because they may or may not get it… Instead he goes and talks to the whole crowd and explains to them what true defilement is, telling them that “there is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

After he’s taken so much effort to chide the Pharisees, to explain what he thinks about defilement to the crowd in pretty clear terms, after all of this his disciples come to him and ask what he means.

Well, we say that Christ is all God and all man at the same time… the human side of Jesus seems pretty exasperated now… people just aren’t getting it, not even his disciples.

So Jesus is even more blunt with them—this bit was omitted from our lectionary readings this morning, but this is what he says to them:

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Continue reading

Simple addition…

Adama nd EveI was cruising the comments over at Titusonenine tonight and someone referenced a bit of writing from “On the Square” in First Things by Robert P. George. George begins his observations saying:

For years, critics of the idea of same-sex “marriage” have made the point that accepting the proposition that two persons of the same sex can marry each other entails abandoning any principled basis for understanding marriage as the union of two and only two persons. So far as I am aware, our opponents have made no serious effort to answer or rebut this point. Their strategy has been to dismiss it as a mere slippery-slope argument (although the truth is that it is a more fundamental type of argument than that) and to accuse us of engaging in “scare tactics.” Some have even denounced us as “bigots” for suggesting that same-sex relations are on a par with polygamy and “polyamory”–the union of three or more persons in a sexual partnership.

That was then; this is now.

A group of self-identified “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and allied activists, scholars, educators, writers, artists, lawyers, journalists, and community organizers” has released a statement explicitly endorsing “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.” Got that? More than one conjugal partner.

Well, this got me to thinking… you see, I took a stab at this issue in a paper I wrote in my first year theology and ethics class at Sewanee. Needless to say my professor, an outspoken liberal, didn’t really like it. My goal in the paper was to push the edges of the liberal arguments and demonstrate that they have little or no support from scripture or tradition. In one section I was discussing the views of some liberal voices in this discussion and I wrote the following:

Many on the liberal side of this debate also argue against the essentialism embraced by the Church. Carter Heyward addresses this issue in her book Touching our Strength:

A historical reading of sexuality will move us beyond sexual essentialism as explanation of anything, including either homosexuality or heterosexuality.

Speaking of this historical formation as a matrix, Heyward continues by stating that  “There can be nothing static in a personal identity or relationship formed in such a matrix. There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual if by this we mean to denote fixed essence, an essential identity. There are rather homosexual and heterosexual people–people who act homosexually or heterosexually.” [Carter Heyward, Touching our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 40]

The issues raised by these authors demonstrate that any thinking about same-sex unions cannot be divorced from thought and discussion of a multitude of other issues, some of which are at least as divisive as sexuality. Not only do we need to look at what constitutes a faithful union, but also what we mean by faithfulness, union or marriage. Why is it assumed that the structure of faithful homosexual relationships should imitate a mode that we have largely abandoned�in practice if not completely in theory�in regard to heterosexual relationships? Simply stating that this is how we do things is no good, as this would only highlight our incoherence in regard to marital fidelity and, if clarified, it would rely on a tradition that forbids homosexual unions even as it support heterosexual monogamy. It is impossible, arguing from the tradition, to support homosexual monogamy since a rejection of the complementary nature of male and female is also a rejection of monogamous relations. Instead, the Church must construct an entirely new basis for monogamy between homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals if it is to move forward. So far, the Church has excluded those last two letters of LGBT, bi-sexual and trans-gendered persons from its discussions of faithful relationships.

One could make the same point by saying that the nature of marital and sexual fidelity as being between one man and one woman arises from the binary nature of human sexuality…without a recognition of that binary nature, there is no reason to limit sexual activity or relationships to those between two people.

Now Listening to: Black Star from the album “Black Star – EP” by Gillian Welch

An explanation of this blog: where has it been and where is it going?

I started “blogging” when I was in college. At that time, I already had a web page (at this address,, though that incarnation is long gone) that I’d maintained since my sophomore year of High School, so I thought I would simply add a blog to my site. I wasn’t familiar with the blog software available, so I just signed up for Livejournal and played with that, trying to incorporate it into my site. Eventually I discovered blogger, and had more success with that. After I met Anna she convinced me to try Typepad. While I’ve really enjoyed all the functions and extras available from Typepad, I was unable to incorporate it into my own site. As a result, I was splitting my content up between and my new Typepad blog at As I maintained this site, the hope grew that it would become a resource for people interested in the same things I am, i.e. history, theology etc… Since my blog gets far more visits than the rest of my page, I felt like it would still be the best of both worlds if I could maintain my blog and the rest of my site at the same place.

So finally, I decided to undertake the task not just of moving my blog, but moving my whole site–almost ten years worth of accumulated web site stuff–to a host that could support one of the more flexible and powerful blog clients such as WordPress or Movable Type. So, I’ve moved my site to Yahoo Small business hosting and have moved my blog here as the first page.

I want to apologize to all those folks who have continued to link to my blog and followed it around during it’s moves, and I want to assure you that it will not be moving again for a long time.


Pocahontas from the album “Black Star – EP” by Gillian Welch

Newer posts »

© 2022

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑