Thursday, October 2, 2008


This week has been long, as always, but also quite interesting. I thought I would treat you all to the highlights, since there's no single thing I thought was most suitable for this post.

Our first sermon is due tomorrow for Homiletics. We were allowed to choose any of the Matthew texts in the lectionary, with a few exceptions. I pulled up the lectionary readings and picked one at random. Perhaps not the wisest decision I've ever made; the text I chose was Matthew 10:24-39. If you don't want to look it up, I'll just tell you: this is the passage in which Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother" etc. Not the most cheerful or easy passages to preach. Still, I've decided to stick with it and write the sermon anyway. We'll see how it turns out. If I'm happy with the end result, I'll post it here. That's the advantage of writing a sermon to turn it to a professor; no one else ever has to see or hear it.

In our Old Testament class this week, we covered Genesis. Actually, we spent almost the whole class on the first eleven chapters of Genesis and then ran out of time to cover the rest. One very interesting idea that came up was about the passage in the second creation story (Genesis 2 and 3), regarding the creation of woman out of Adam's side, or rib. The translation "rib" here is a Christian one; Jewish translations always use the word "side". Dr. Stevens indicated that there is an interpretation of this passage in Jewish thought that suggests that the first human, 'adam (the term is gender inclusive, like the Greek 'anthropos'), might actually be a conjoined male-female figure, and the two halves are separated into man (ish) and woman (ishah). Sound familiar? Readers of Plato's Symposium will understand my reaction: holy crap, Aristophanes was right! That's right... the Hebrew tradition suggests an origin of the sexes surprisingly similar to that of Aristophanes' speech in the Symposium. Cool, huh?

In Early Church, our lecture this week was on baptism. As you might imagine, the questions quickly turned to baptism and salvation: is it necessary? Why would it be necessary? What about people who never have the opportunity to be baptized, or who are baptized but then commit terrible sins? Dr. Christianson gave the best explanation I have ever heard, which was simply to say, "Baptism may or may not be necessary for salvation, but it is necessary for the assurance of salvation." I'm sure he's not the first person to come up with this formulation, but it's the first time I have heard it, and it makes far more sense to me than any other explanation I've been offered. It solves so many issues, and clears up so much confusion I've had about baptism in the past. Now, it's not a perfect explanation, of course, and I still have unanswered questions, but it helped a lot.

In Integrative Seminar, we talked about religious illiteracy, which is a scary, scary subject. For a country that thumps its Bible so prodigiously, and that allows religion to influence so many aspects of our society and politics, Americans know shockingly little about their own religion, and even less about other religions. A few years ago, a book was published titled "Religious Literacy"; it sharply pointed out the problem. The author, Stephen Prothero, administers a basic quiz on religion to his undergraduate students. They fail consistently. Check it out to see how you do. I passed, but not with flying colors—I don't know the four noble truths of Buddhism, and I can never remember all seven sacraments (good thing Lutherans only have two!). The answers are at the end of the article, so you can score yourself.

So that's the week in review. Stay tuned for a sermon (maybe) and more news from the Ridge, as they say.

No comments: