Saturday, December 24, 2005

Devotional thoughts on the Word of God

On the eve of the celebration of the birth of Christ -- the Word made flesh -- here is a paragraph from one of the most important books undergirding Jüngel's theology. The book is Introduction to a Theological Theory of Language by Gerhard Ebeling. Pardon the gendered language; this book was published long before our current understanding of such words became commonplace.


What Christian faith calls the word of God is not, and never was, 'self-evident' to man (in the trivial and pejorative sense of the phrase). He was never able to take it in smoothly, without trouble and painlessly -- and without joy, as this would no doubt have meant. Agreement with what was proclaimed and addressed to one never took place without difficulties, and assent was never automatic. The believer has always owed his faith to a miracle, to a radical change of mind which overwhelms him. According to Luther, the word of God always comes as adversarius noster, our adversary. It does not simply confirm and strengthen us in what we think we are and as what we wish to be taken for. It negates our nature, which has fallen prey to illusion; but this is the way the word of God affirms our being and makes it true. This is the way, the only way, in which the word draws us into concord and peace with God. This structure of the certainty of justification, which is none other than the belief in creation and the hope of the resurrection, is in a sense also the basic pattern of the miraculous power of the word of God. It is a power which one cannot grow used to, to which one cannot become indifferent, and which one cannot take under one's control; and the giving of assent to the testimony borne to it is itself experienced as a miracle. But all this, as it happens to the believer, is genuinely self-evident -- in a stricter and more precise sense of the term. He does not give his assent to it because his heart is forced and broken, but because it is set free and made whole.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Flying home ...

Amy and I are sitting near Gate 15, preparing for the 6 hr. 25 min. flight back to Portland, OR, our beloved city. The day has been very long already, and the cross-country flight only makes things more difficult. After packing quickly this morning, we took the NJ Transit train to New York city in downtown Manhatten's Penn Station. From there we took the subway to JFK airport. We gave ourselves plenty of time to catch our flight. We actually arrived at the airport at 3 o'clock, even though our flight does not leave until 7:30; we were too early even to check in our bags. In any case, we are sitting in a large central area for laptop users to hook up their computers and surf the net -- for free, I might add. Right now we are in the middle of watching The Barbarian Invasions, a favorite movie of mine. Only seven more hours, and we'll finally be back in our lovely town, where the trees are green, the air is fresh, and people can actually drive!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Foreign film review

Two recent releases: A Very Long Engagement and Born into Brothels
The recent French film, A Very Long Engagement, is another winner for Andrey Tautou. The film has some of the most intense and realistic war scenes since Saving Private Ryan. It also has a love story at its center, but it is told without the saccharine sentimentality which easily could have plagued the film. Like other French films, it has sumptuous cinematography and that quirky storytelling pace which is so characteristic of contemporary French cinema. I recommend it, though one should watch Amelie beforehand if this is your first Tautou experience.

Last year's Oscar winner for best documentary went to Born into Brothels, which technically is not a foreign film. However, since it is set in Calcutta, India, most of the film is subtitled. I cannot recommend this documentary highly enough. Christians especially need to see this; only the most selfish and complacent Christians would see the film and not feel a strong pull toward overseas ministry. The film chronicles the lives of several children born to prostitute mothers in the red-light district around Calcutta. Their lives are radically changed when a Western woman decides to give these children cameras and teach them how to be photographers. And this is not child's play with cameras; it is serious artistic work. Her efforts go beyond education. She also gets them into schools in order to alter their whole lives, giving them a future outside of prostitution and poverty. These children are brilliant, but it's the concern and attention that this woman demonstrates which is so compelling for those of us who live privileged lives. Please, see this film.

Two classic films: Fanny & Alexander and The Battle of Algiers
Fanny & Alexander is Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece; it is a work of artistic genius. Bergman is, in my opinion, the greatest director who's ever lived (followed closely by Kurosawa and Kieslowski). This film is autobiographical in nature, and was Bergman's final theatrical release. Fanny & Alexander brings together most of Bergman's most important themes and motifs: the nature of art and aesthetics, the presence and hiddenness of God, human identity, family relationships (both reconciled and broken), and the problem of good and evil in the world. Without a doubt, this film ranks in the top three of all time, in my opinion.

The Battle of Algiers, released in 1967, is the most relevant political film for our difficult age. Directed by an Italian, the story concerns the pivotal events in the late 1950s and early '60s in Algeria between the French colonialists and Arab natives. France colonized the country and divided Algiers, the capital, between the European Quarter and the Arab section, essentially polarizing the nation between the powerful Europeans and the seemingly helpful Arabs. But then the latter felt the deep desire for freedom -- and massive violence ensues. One of the virtues of this is that it does not vilify any one side. The Arabs are not presented as MLK like saints who simply want freedom; nor are the French presented as ruthless colonialists who are evil through and through. Later, when the French paratroopers are called in to handle the situation, their tactics are presented from all angles. The film is astonishingly relevant for a number of reasons: (1) the conflict with Muslims is in itself a question we discuss regularly today; (2) acts of terrorism are carefully dealt with; (3) the French army's use of torture interrogation is more relevant than anyone could have guessed back then; and (4) the issue of colonialism itself is not a dead issue. I think one needs to ask: Is it possible to colonize democracy? When Iraq isn't demanding democracy, is it possibly colonization to impose it?

Two more suggestions for those who want good foreign cinema: City of God and The Barbarian Invasions
No comment. Just watch them!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Even seminary students can have fun!

I got this picture from the seminary archives. It's the only documented prank at Princeton Theological Seminary, which occurred in 1964. The building is Stuart Hall, where virtually all of the classes take place. Since it's been over 40 years, I think it might be time to bring back the pranks around here.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

First snowfall in Princeton

It's Sunday morning, and without warning, this is what we see directly outside our apartment! The Princeton area received between 3-4 inches of snow in a few hours.

Our apartment is the one on the corner, on the first floor. The building itself is tucked away from the street on the edge of some woods.

Facing the other direction, you can see the parking lot, which serves a few other buildings on the street adjacent to us.

Here you can see the level of snow on top of our Honda. Unfortunately for us, we did not expect to have snow slowing us down. But thankfully we were only a few minutes late to church.

And here's my own real life snow angel. :)