Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. – Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Being An Alumni of a Bible College/Seminary Can Sometimes Be Aggravating



Being An Alumni of a Bible College/Seminary
Can Sometimes Be Aggravating

I learned today that my Baptist College and Seminary has finally decided they maybe should do something about science and the bible. Specifically, how to handle evolution. Added to this question of science they are also deciding to let go of the teaching of "divine accomodation" where God speaks to us as if we are idiots, in ways we might understand Him. Which is all well and good as it seems we still are in need of being spoken to as idiots by God for all the harm and destruction we do among ourselves and planet earth.

However, in the school's infinite wisdom they are now adopting a newly devised doctrinal term named "divine relevance" (curiously mimicking the title of my own blogsite, Relevancy22, or to that of the publication Relevancy Magazine, which came out several years after I began writing of a contemporary postmodern theology). I find it highly humorous and flattering to name a new doctrinal direction based upon their observation of becoming more "relevant" to the world. I sincerely pray my fellowship continues forward in this direction.

Reading on... I came across my school's most recent words and quote: "The more things change the more they stay the same." This kind of sentiment quite defeats how far behind my conservative evangelical college and seminary have become in terms of philosophical, theological, and sociological relevance. I suppose, given enough time, they will work themselves out beyond their present boundary sets to someday admit gays and trans-, that they are just as much people as my fellowship's brothers and sisters are themselves as church people. People whom God loves and the church should learn to love too instead of sniping behind their backs privately or condemning in their bible study groups to one another.

Reading further, I see how their statement about "relevance theory" seeks to help in explaining the relationship between "the explicit words of the Bible [originalism] and [its] broader cognitive environment [cultural relativism], [pertaining to] the cultural and intellectual context of the original bible audience [added brackets are mine own]." But this explanatory statement really doesn't do it for me. It's simply not apologizing for misreading the bible in the first place nor looking for a more sanitized way of re-stating the bible in an updated fashion to keep people in the church listening to their dogmatic beliefs.

In my experience dogmatists assume they know how people were thinking back in "bible days". But if bible schools do not have heavy concentrations in comparative ancient language, literature, and history in other ancient civilizations beyond Israel, Egypt, and a smattering of a few others, I really don't think they can accomplish their stated task of knowing what the cultural milieu was thinking back in their ancient settings. Heck, I can't even remember 30 years ago with any accuracy how I was thinking or feeling about something let alone pass it along verbally for generations with any accuracy as explicitly as I once knew it then. So usually the theologian or preacher draws upon present day examples and think those personal experiences are "biblical" enough when usually they've completely misconstrued the biblical text they were exegeting.

As an example, let me come down on sports DJ's who stand up one minute for one thing they believe in, then hammer it for a year as if life and death depends on it, and the very next year back out of what they had been saying by agreeing with the other side and supporting it. This drives me crazy as I've heard it once too many times. Needless to say, I don't stay around long enough to hear anything more these talking heads have to say about sports. Being harsh and pig-headed about a disagreeable subject such as denying Black lives matter to then turn around and say, "Hey, I was wrong, let's look at this way instead" doesn't win my allegiance back when that same subject was obvious from the start. Black lives mattered then to me when they didn't matter to those spewing out invectives on Colin Kaepernick taking a knee at the advice of a military veteran to show his commitment against systemic racism.

A holistic purist like myself simply hates the disingenuousness of act and speech. I had tried to the best of my ability at the time to study the bible in a way which would be helpful to those unable to do the same. To be thorough and to listen and pray through those studies during very long years of training. I feel the same way towards Christians who did not apply themselves as hard; who twenty years ago condemned their fellow Christians for speaking out against their moralistic judgments, then preached those same judgments for years and years, to finally say, "La-dee-la-dee-la, 'Oh! I've changed my mind... now it's this way and you should believe what I believe now!'" Which, in shorthand, is that they should've studied and listened twenty years ago instead of condemning what they knew not and preaching against. Teaching the bible carries with it a great responsibility.

Thus and thus are the Christian jedi mind tricks I've lived under and have spoken out against more recently and have become greatly tired of its harmful proclamations. Which is why I went public against evangelical teachings several years ago, though at the time I didn't understand my discontent nor wish to become stigmatized as "heretical". To have to re-discover on my own how the God of the bible and the Christian faith could be much larger than He was from inside my "God-ordained and Divinely sanctified" earlier fellowships. It was hell to leave, hell to figure it out, and hell to speak up. But this was the path the Spirit led me on whether I wanted it or not - which frankly, I didn't. But the burden I carried weighed heavily on me and I felt I had no choice but to write of a new, post-evangelical, postmodern orthodoxy. And I'm glad I did.

What this meant to me then, and what it means to me now, says that I'm the more willing to write down my questions and observations publically - to be scrutinized and criticized for these observations so that what I, and other like-minded individuals write, may become healthier, more informed, and more loving as time passes by in our faith, actions, and words. But my patience for "books of the hour" that titillates the itching brains of the church has run thin.

Lastly, whatever my brothers and sisters were hoping to accomplish in D.C. earlier this fall of 2020, I pray I, like they, have committed ourselves to loving others who are different from us in better ways then we have in the past as an unsympathetic church having backed outrageous civil and political policies of harm and suffering. If the D.C. gathering was just for sympathetic fellowship and conservative political partisanship which continues laying down inhumane and unjust laws for the refugee, immigrant, non-white, or genderly different, than no, your idea and my idea of repentance is completely different. I do not stand with the church in these matters nor in matters of the divisive dogmas and dogmatic doctrines they preach and teach. With deepest apologies, rant ended.

R.E. Slater
October 17, 2020





Lessons in Writing: The Palaeolgraphy of the Bible

The teacher you would do anything for as an elementary school kid...

My apologies. I had gotten sidetracked on several projects in preparation of the winter season soon upon us here in West Michigan. I took off about three weeks to work through 400 sq yds of woodchips (about 16 full dump truck loads) which I had dumped by loggers working behind us clearing off a tract of land. Once collected, with the help of my 93 year old neighbor and his tractor, he would spread it out as I raked it in, across an acre+ of land due to water erosion around the ponds, driveway, yards, and fields. After this I went to the local farmer's elevator to buy roadside grass mix for its hardiness to then spread across the woodchips previously laid in and to plant native plantings into the chip distributions to strengthen it against water runoff. 

While doing this I also weeded out all unwanted weeds and non-native growths around the property. Since buying this tract of land a few years ago my goal has been to restore it to its wildness and to create an urbane kind of preservation where man and beast might live together. It was a timeful expenditure which left my older body sore and aching nearly every day. As an ex-amateur athlete, it felt good to work with my hands-and-back and to feel the pain coursing again through my body. Pain is not always evil, many times it can be good or serve as a warning to strengthen a part of it. In addition, I just needed to close up the outdoor areas with the change in colder weather rapidly descending, visit our grown children, manage various committee affairs, and so on. This is my so-called non-eventful life in the Covid-19 era living out in the country near a frenetic metropolis, itself in the throes of chaos, change, and livelihoods.




Today I'd like to introduce the subject of paleology/palaeology, which is the study of antiquities (adj. var., paleologist, palaeologist, n. — paleologic, palaeologic, paleological, palaeological) and its subset paleography, which is the study of ancient manuscripts:


Wikipedia - Palaeography (not to be confused with Palaeogeography) - Paleaeography (UK) or paleography (US; ultimately from Greek: παλαιός, palaiós, "old", and γράφειν, gráphein, "to write") is the study of ancient and historical handwriting (that is to say, of the forms and processes of writing; not the textual content of documents). Included in the discipline is the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts,[2] and the cultural context of writing, including the methods with which writing and books were produced, and the history of scriptoria.[3]

The discipline is one of the auxiliary sciences of history. It is important for understanding, authenticating, and dating ancient texts. However, it generally cannot be used to pinpoint dates with high precision.

Application

Palaeography can be an essential skill for historians and philologists, as it tackles two main difficulties. First, since the style of a single alphabet in each given language has evolved constantly, it is necessary to know how to decipher its individual characters as they existed in various eras. Second, scribes often used many abbreviations, usually so as to write more quickly and sometimes to save space, so the specialist-palaeographer must know how to interpret them. Knowledge of individual letter-forms, ligatures, punctuation, and abbrevia-tions enables the palaeographer to read and understand the text. The palaeographer must know, first, the language of the text (that is, one must become expert in the relevant earlier forms of these languages); and second, the historical usages of various styles of handwriting, common writing customs, and scribal or notarial abbreviations. Philological knowledge of the language, vocabulary, and grammar generally used at a given time or place can help palaeographers identify ancient or more recent forgeries versus authentic documents.

Knowledge of writing materials is also essential to the study of handwriting and to the identification of the periods in which a document or manuscript may have been produced.[4] An important goal may be to assign the text a date and a place of origin: this is why the palaeographer must take into account the style and formation of the manuscript and the handwriting used in it.[5]

Document dating

Palaeography can be used to provide information about the date at which a document was written. However, "paleography is a last resort for dating" and, "for book hands, a period of 50 years is the least acceptable spread of time"[6][7] with it being suggested that "the 'rule of thumb' should probably be to avoid dating a hand more precisely than a range of at least seventy or eighty years".[7] In a 2005 e-mail addendum to his 1996 "The Paleographical Dating of P-46" paper Bruce W. Griffin stated "Until more rigorous methodologies are developed, it is difficult to construct a 95% confidence interval for NT  [New Testament] manuscripts without allowing a century for an assigned date."[8] William M Schniedewind went even further in the abstract to his 2005 paper "Problems of Paleographic Dating of Inscriptions" and stated that "The so-called science of paleography often relies on circular reasoning because there is insufficient data to draw precise conclusion about dating. Scholars also tend to oversimplify diachronic development, assuming models of simplicity rather than complexity".[9]


The Wikipedia article goes on to give a practical introduction to the science and study of ancient documents by chronological age and geographical region. Reading through it will prepare one for viewing the accompanying technical videos I have placed below regarding the subject of the formal and cursive writing of Greek texts. None of this is difficult to comprehend. It's simply something many have not thought about or studied from a paleographical viewpoint. New words, different subject topics, and newer technical aides. All in all its pretty cool.

Much like the study of our own handwriting from its earliest remonstrances through grade school, college, and into middle age and beyond, so to with ancient documents. My earliest memories were of formally writing in capital letters between a top and bottom ledger line. After the capitals of the alphabet were learned then I graduated to learning how to write in lower-case letters using four lines: the middle top for extending the "b, f, h, k, l" and so on; and the middle bottom for extending the "g, j, p, q" and so on.




    




Then came my first impression of cursive writing which I thought was ugly, quite disorganized, and how I didn't like it. I imagine the ancients went through this same kind of thing when the younger generations came in with their "new-fangled ideas". If the royal formalisms of the day dictated formal capital writings then to transition centuries latter to cursive writing was probably something that just "wasn't done" in royal societies! Thus, the difference between majuscule (caps) and miniscule writing (lower cursive). Human societies have learned to use the tools at hand such as dictating by shorthand - which was all the rage in the first part of the 20th century - then Dictaphones, with steno pools to transcribe the spoken words into typed print, and later document imaging, faxing, etc. The ancients were no less adept even though technology turned at a slower pace back then because of restricted communications between geographic, cultural language, and dominionist boundaries.

At the last, knowing the history and development of an ancient culture’s ideas have assisted future human civilizations to look back on the good, the bad, and the ugly of mankind's achievements. Myself, I've come from a background of fundamental and later, conservative evangelical, biblical training which emphasized the importance of knowing the language, syntax, and grammatical senses of the literary tracts of the bible. It was especially important to not say any more or any less than what the "original" biblical passage did in its day. The trick after that was to determine from comparative literary analysis of other ancient documents extant at the time from other early cultures the passage's sense of meaning and application to its day. Much like our discussions of interpreting the U.S. Constitution in its "originalist and textual" sense so biblical interpretation does so in itself.




Through the past recent years, I've begun to take a different tact on ancient manuscript reading. Using the U.S. Constitution as an example, the document isn't much good if the ideals and the deficiencies of its hoary history cannot be translated into today's contemporary democratic culture of ideals and injustices. If the Constitution is simply a revered dead document with no relevancy to America today it's of no use except to be twisted and politicized out of its original intentions (as we have seen in the recent presidential impeachments by the Republican lawyers and party). If, however, the Constitution is considered as a living document meant to be imminently meaningful to today's masses then we must be able to discuss social inequality and injustice in terms of systemic racism and political partisanship running rampant under the Trump administration.

So too with my feelings towards evangelical biblical interpretation today. I think it important to know the bible's hoary history and linguistics of the day, but it must be imminently translatable to today's weary masses. Weary of war, division, resource theft, personal and communal usuary and abuse, impoverishment, death, and deformation. I decided several years ago when creating Relevancy22 to restore to theology its imminency by concentrating on highlighting our Father-God as a God of supreme love and goodness. To take all I was trained in and to lift it up beyond its current evangelical boundaries to the humanitarian levels of what it means to live in this world today as a Christian of faith sharing a cosmoecological gospel of people and land restoration, redemption, renewal, reformation, and hope.

If we only concentrate on creating formalized doctrinal rules maintaining dogmatic distinctions such as the "literal, historical, grammatical, contextual" interpretive rules I grew up with, then it doesn't allow one to do much thinking outside of the "biblical evangelical box" we've placed ourselves in. For myself, I needed to erase those boundaries, to not think in literal terms but in societal terms of biblical meaning, and to recognize even theology is bounded by its philosophies which governs it century-to-century. I took the pains to remove myself from Calvinism's unhelpfulness and to concentrate on uplifting Weslyean Arminianism to where it is today, rightfully seated in "Open and Relational Theological" discussions platformed on top of Process Philosophy. I use to call this neo-Postmodern Orthodoxy but now its simpler to simply describe it as Process Theology and along with to fit a new process-based Natural Theology around it.

These weren't easy tasks to do when flying solo by myself but over the years but by the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord it became possible to look beyond my historic roots and origins to the promising lands beyond. Remembering, at the same time, to revisit the past, such as today's subject, and to always remember the earlier foundations which might be transcribed into the impressionable and translatable living cultures we live where as contemporary Christians we might speak, share, minister, and evangelize why Jesus is the bedrock of all of life, its philosophies, and the world itself.

Jesus had discovered when growing up how distant his faith had become from the God of His forefather's, who they themselves had once learned - as roving scallywags of God's outreaching love - to be humble become teachable to the Lord's Spirit. We are no different today. Our faiths and our churches have lost sight of the love of God and what His salvific sacrifice meant to the world in terms of hope and promise. We are not to create counter-religious cultures of legislative laws but imbedded cultures of faith ethics, serving, and doing.

That because the future is open and not determined we, with our mighty God, might create a kingdom of heaven on earth without the use of corrupted "civilized" laws. Laws of love unbounded by civil laws "of duty". Spirit laws written on the heart instead of upon the scrolls of religious and civil documents. We follow the Author of our faith and not the idols of religious zealots too corrupted to see the Jesus of their day. We are seekers of God and of humanitarianism. We live by love, eat by love, serve by love. It is that simple. For these things Jesus died and empowered all the world to follow Him that it might be saved to the higher plains of spiritual worldliness in the hallowed halls of the Lord God's creation of solidarity and love.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
October 17, 2020

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Site Resources

University of Oxford, Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents

the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM)

Evangelical Textual Criticism

Files and Information on Early Jewish and Early Christian Copies of Greek Jewish Scriptures



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Sample Illustrations









Juan Hernandez Jr. of Bethel University, St. Paul, MN, presented a paper titled
Codex Sinaiticus: The Earliest Greek Christian Commentary on John’s Apocalypse?




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Helpful Introductory Videos

Clark Bates on the Origin of Greek Minuscule


Clark Bates, Text & Canon Institute Fellow and PhD candidate
at  University of Birmingham, discusses the origin of the
Greek minuscule script, Sept 20, 2020



Joey McCollum on Identifying Textual Clusters
with Non-Negative Matrix Factorization


Joey McCollum of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
presents his research on using non-negative matrix factorization to
identify textual clusters in the Greek New Testament, Sept 24, 2020



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Helpful Textual Resources
Created by Evangelical Textual Criticism Group

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