Shortest books in the world


I’m still collecting titles for the shortest books in the world. Suggestions welcomed.

“Road to the Super Bowl: The Detroit Lions’ Story”
“How Higher Taxes Created Jobs”
“Brewing Your Own Beer” by Stanley Horton
“Women in Church Leadership” by Mark Driscoll
“Systematic Theology” by Peter Rollins
“AMERICA!” by John Howard Yoder (forward by Stanley Hauerwas)
“A Theology of Suffering” by Joel Osteen
Charismata: A Dialog with the Traditions” by John MacArthur
“12 Steps to Health and Wealth” by John Piper
“Tips for Great Vocals” by Katie Perry
“Fun Things To Do in Southern Illinois”
“Ministries I Approve Of” by Hank Hanegraaff
“Anita Belt: The Dark Years”

A few from my Middle Eastern years…

“Top Middle Eastern Vacation Spots”
“Humble Arabs I Have Known”
“Jewish Business Ethics”
“Jordanian War Heroes”
“Islamic Democracies”

More suggestions?

(Picture here.)

God not other than what we find in Christ

NIKOLAI_Ge_Crucifixion“Every picture people have of God that is other than what we find in Christ on the cross is a mistaken conception of God.” (Greg Boyd)

Forgive me for hovering over Greg for a second post this week. I’ve been pondering this quote of his for days. Not surprisingly, I can’t think of any Christian (broadly defined) who would disagree with his statement, including the most classical of theists. But not all who agree with the statement find the same thing in Christ crucified. A more fundamental question might be: Just what does one find in Christ on the Cross? And granting that God cannot be other than what one finds, a more important question would be: How does one do the ‘finding’ which the Cross inevitably beckons us toward? The point, a bit discouraging if you ask me, is that there’s nothing obvious to find in the Cross even if one agrees with Greg that the Cross is the ‘X’ that marks the spot where the greatest treasure is to be found. Different Christians, all who agree with Greg’s quote, see different things and so find different treasures. I certainly find a different treasure than Greg finds.

Of course Greg doesn’t just say this much. He says a great deal, very capably and passionately, about what he specifically “finds in Christ crucified,” and it is with respect to what he finds that he makes his statement. But all this begs more fundamental questions: Is the truth of the Cross really that obvious? Does its treasure lie casually on the surface? How does one go about finding God in Christ on the Cross?

(Picture here.)

God’s triune actuality the only metaphysical necessity

16_Dorrien_FIG1It’s no secret here that Dwayne and I are big fans of Greg Boyd’s early work on the Trinity (Trinity & Process | TP) and that we think positions he presently holds essentially abandon that work. I thought of a series of posts boiling down the arguments of TP, but this week I was thumbing through Trinity in Process (Bracken/Suchoki, 1997) in which Greg contributes a chapter summarizing TP quite nicely. I may just upload that chapter, but for now let me share a passage from that chapter that express well that earlier view of God which Greg held and which we’ve argued his kenoticism essentially denies. Greg’s chapter is “The Self-Sufficient Sociality of God: A Trinitarian Revision of Hartshorne’s Metaphysics.” Nearing the end of his essay he writes (p. 86f):

God’s Actuality as the Only Metaphysical Necessity. We might point out that Hartshorne faces this very same problem in relationship to God’s abstract nature, because, in his view, it is only the abstract nature of God that is necessary. On a concrete level (God’s Consequent Nature), God is wholly contingent. But how is the abstract necessity of God to be rendered intelligible if everything concrete about God is contingent, while abstractions are held to be derivative from concreteness? How can an abstraction from the concrete possess a quality (viz., necessity) which the concrete it abstracts from altogether lacks? What, in other words, renders intelligible the necessity of God if God’s actuality is altogether contingent?

I certainly agree with Hartshorne’s arguments concerning the necessity of God, but for just this reason, I maintain that God must be essentially constituted by a necessary actuality. The abstract necessity of God, I argue, is not rendered intelligible if God’s actuality is wholly contingent. Once we locate the necessary experiential, social, and aesthetic features of being within the one necessary being, however, this problem is solved. For what is abstractly necessary is, in God, also concretely necessary. [my emphasis]

If my case against Hartshorne’s analysis of the principle of contrast is correct, then there are, again, no longer any grounds for maintaining that the supreme Being must eternally contrast with an actually non-supreme world. Indeed, there are, we have seen, good metaphysical grounds to deny that God must do so. The nature of metaphysical necessity is intelligible only as applied to a necessary actuality and, hence, not as applied to a world of contingencies.

Finally, to bring this essay full circle, what I have been arguing is that the nature of this sole necessary actuality is intelligible only on the supposition that God satisfies within Godself all the a priori conditions of being; namely, as being self-sufficient and unsurpassable in sociality and aesthetic satisfaction. By metaphysical necessity, then, God must exist as a plurality of experiential centers, socially related in an unsurpassably intense aesthetic satisfaction by virtue of the unsurpassable openness and availability each center has toward the others. Among all the available theistic options, I submit, only the classical trinitarian understanding of God articulates this conception unambiguously. [my emphasis]

By ‘sociality’ is simply meant the ‘communion’ of the divine persons, the essentially relational nature of divine triune being. There are other interesting questions to pursue here (What is meant by “centers”?), but the point I want to bring up is Greg’s identifying God’s necessary concrete actuality with God’s triune sociality as such. That’s the material point. God’s essential, necessary concrete actuality just is the experienced sociality/relationality of the Father, Son and Spirit. But it is also this which makes impossible kenotic models (like Greg’s present position) of the Incarnation which posit a real cessation of this experienced actuality. To go kenotic in this sense one has to construe (as Greg explicitly does today) God’s experienced sociality/relationality as contingent and not necessary.

One could maintain that God is essentially triune even in the absence of God’s concrete triune experienced sociality, but one would be affirming a mere abstraction, and this would be open to the same criticism Greg levels against Hartshorne, namely, that what is abstractly necessary is also concretely necessary (in the sense that abstractions are by definition abstractions ‘of’ or ‘upon’ or ‘relative to’ concrete realities). Hence, if one then says that the experienced loving sociality of the divine persons ever fails concretely (say, upon the Cross), it follows that it fails abstractly as well as a necessary feature of God’s existence. To be a kenoticist, then, one has to abandon the necessity of the One God’s essentially triune ‘concrete’ existence.

To explore a bit of Greg’s reasoning along these lines, check out TP (pp. 212-217), a portion of which I present here:

Whitehead thus correctly saw that the intelligibility of God’s relationship to the world (and hence the intelligibility of the world process itself) requires that the necessary self-defining features of God be identified with a “reality,” a reality which is more than an abstraction and which, in fact, is “complete” and “unconditioned” in relation to the contingent temporal process. The categories of his system, however, did not allow him to carry this insight through to its end. Likewise Hartshorne, therefore, the full actuality of God must here be viewed as being constituted as a prehension of antecedent (non-divine) data…[emphasis mine]

The perfection of God, that which defines God’s self apart from all interaction with a non-divine reality (viz., is “unconditioned”) must be identical with a necessary and actually abiding reality. As to God’s necessary existence, God does not have the abstract features of goodness, love, awareness, etc. God is—actually—goodness, love, awareness, etc.

To use traditional terminology, God’s “abstract” essence is God’s necessary concrete existence. The a priori features which “abstractly” identify God as God constitute God’s essential actuality. God’s actuality is not, therefore, simply a contingent exemplification of divine attributes.

The “abstract” attributes of God are, on this account, given an intelligible normative status over all of God’s contingent activity. The “absolutely fixed” and “ungenerated style” of God, the “law” of God’s concrete contingent activity, is simply the aseity of God’s eternal actuality. God’s necessary character is not paradoxically “contained in” God’s contingent actuality: it is, rather, identical with God’s eternal actuality. [emphasis mine]

It is not difficult to see how a kenotic Christology abandons this reasoning, for the necessary divine actuality which must be “complete” and “unconditioned” antecedent to all created contingencies is, as is argued here (in TP) by Greg (with Orthodoxy), the full and unconditioned actuality of the Father, Son and Spirit in their full and reciprocal knowledge of, love for and enjoyment of each other.

(Picture, “Freedom” by Rafael Lopez)

Ontological Argument: Lyrics

Tony Bennett — one of the greatest voices ever. I love this song for a couple reasons. First, if you were going to sing the ontological argument, this would be it, right? I mean, ‘the very thought of you’ and ‘the mere idea of you’ echo the argument. The second reason I love this song is how it invites me into an appreciation and even experience of God’s unsurpassable satisfaction, which is how we understand divine apatheia. So, here’s our prescription for a healthy mind: Find a quiet place to listen to Tony. Push play and listen quietly. Play it a second time while singing it to God. That’s the important part. Do this twice weekly for six months. Welcome to the journey of apatheia.

The very thought of you and I forget to do
The little ordinary things that everyone ought to do
I’m living in a kind of daydream
I’m happy as a king
And foolish though it may seem
To me that’s everything

The mere idea of you, the longing here for you
You’ll never know how slow the moments go till I’m near to you
I see your face in every flower
Your eyes in stars above
It’s just the thought of you
The very thought of you, my love

The mere idea of you, the longing here for you
You’ll never know how slow the moments go till I’m near to you
I see your face in every flower
Your eyes in stars above
It’s just the thought of you
The very thought of you, my love

Does God love Satan?

The hardest part about this post for me wasn’t stating what I believe the answer of this question to be. (I wholeheartedly believe God loves Satan.) It was finding an appropriate picture. I went back and forth. Do I post as grotesque an image as possible? Or do I find something that exposes our inclination toward the same evil that consumes him, something along the lines of 2 Cor 11.14’s description of the Devil’s ability to “masquerade as an angel of light” — attractive on the surface, even photogenic you might say? We like to think the Devil’s appearance is metaphysically nauseating, but as evil as he is, he remains a suave, calculating intelligence of incomparable capacity, a well-dressed metaphysical black hole.

That aside, I think the question has merit, as bizarre as many readers may find it and as pointless as they who disbelieve his actual existence may find it. Our answer to the question ‘Does God love Satan?’, I suggest, can reveal a lot about our metaphysical commitments, our attitudes about God and creation and the nature of the relation between the two, especially for those who believe Scripture’s claim that ‘God is love’ is to be read with all its metaphysical implications. God ‘is’ love. His being and existence, his intentions and acts, are wholly convertible with supreme and unconditional benevolence. I pose the question about Satan especially to those who believe at least this much about God:

Does God love Satan?

What you see really is what you get. So what do you see?

Contemplating Jesus’ transfiguration (MT 17.1-9) has opened me up to a new appreciation for what transcendence entails in Christological terms. It’s not just a ‘vision’ which the three disciples have, a symbolic presentation that occurs only within their imagination. They see the world the way it truly is. Their eyes are opened to see abiding realities of Christ neither immediately perceived nor exhausted by the material order of their everyday vision.

Matthew 17:1-9 | After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Think differently, live differently

bob-hamp-bookPart of what I do at our church here in Minneapolis is direct Recovery ministries, a network of support groups helping people get and stay free. Typically folks think of 12-Step programs for addicts when they think about ‘recovery’. But recovery embraces more than just substance abuse. We’re all in recovery. Most of our classes address issues you might not think of when you think of ‘recovery’ — marriage support, divorce care, anger management, anxiety and depression, boundaries, purity, etc. One amazing thing I’ve observed since beginning to work in the recovery community is struggling and hurting people coming alive to the healing truth of God’s abiding and indestructible joy (apatheia), but that’s another issue.

In this post I’d like to share a resource I’ve taped into this summer teaching through Bob Hamp’s Foundations of Freedom. Excellent material. Up to this past Spring Bob was a staff pastor at Gateway Church in Ft. Worth, but I believe he’s back in private practice now.

Rachmaninoff the theologian

A couple of years ago Anita and I went to hear Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony. We were familiar with his works for Piano but had never taken time to listen to his symphonies. We sat speechless throughout the entire four movements. The 3rd (Adagio) movement (Part 1 of 2 linked here for your enjoyment; don’t miss Part 2) escorted me out of the hall to I know not where. I’ve never come back completely. I’m listening to it now on the back porch, just settling into the truth which this symphony shares. If you still wonder what transcendence is, don’t do more reading, do more listening.

Another Rach piece my son and I love and listen to over and over is his 3rd Piano Concerto. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times. You never recover from Rachmaninoff. It’s probably not the best way to listen to his 3rd Piano Concerto the first time, but here’s the amazing Valentina Lasitsa playing the 3rd Rach without the orchestra. From minute 9:30 onward it’s indescribable, and after the storm begins to settle the transition that occurs at 12:35 is an invitation to as healing a moment as you’ll every have in music.