September 29, 2020

Saturday Ramblings 2.19.11

If you are new here at the iMonastery, each week we try to do a little light housecleaning. We put away the leftovers and take out the garbage and sweep the floors. We can make quite the mess during the week trying to keep things going here. So bear with us now as we get out the broom and dustpan and clean up what we call the Saturday Ramblings.

“I’ll take Life As We Know It Is Over for two hundred, Alex.”

“Answer: He just beat two former champions, but can’t spend any of the winnings.”

[Beep Beep] “Who is Watson?”


Did you watch the Grammy Awards last week? If so, you probably noticed many of the artists thanking God for helping with their careers. God should have picked up some sort of award, don’t you think? This Wall Street Journal article says that “believing that God wants you to be famous actually improves your chances of being famous.” Really now, is that all it takes? Well, after watching some of the performers, talent certainly doesn’t come into the mix.

And what about God’s will vs. Man’s will? Is it ever possible that what we perceive as God’s will is not really his will, and what we desire in our hearts, even though it may not seem to be right, really is God’s will for us? This is the theme explored in the new Matt Damon movie, The Adjustment Bureau, based on a Philip K. Dick short story. It sounds intriguing.

You may have read that the Borders bookstore chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week, and plans to close at least 200 stores. Al Mohler writes why bookstores still matter. And for once, I totally agree with him.

The Bible is so much more complex than we allow it to be at times. Timothy Beal makes a good case for the comlexity of the creation story alone. Why is it that we try to get the Bible to fit into our way of thinking, instead of letting our way of thinking fit into the Bible? Or is that too complex of a question for a Saturday?

Great. First they win the Superb Owl, now they have the Virgin Mary. It’s enough to get me to give up cheese and bratwursts…

Have we mentioned how much we love reading Mark Galli? Here he is teaching evangelicals how to count.

I suppose I shouldn’t let this bother me. After all, aren’t we supposed to be influential in the marketplace? But somehow, it still does. I’m not quite ready to become Amish and unplug everything, but I’m getting there.

A tip o’ the Rambler’s birthday cap this last week to General Omar Bradley; Lorne Greene; Bill Russell; Woody Hayes; Tennessee Ernie Ford; Peter Tork; Jerry Springer; Mel Allen; Jimmy Hoffa; Florence Henderson; Edgar Bergen; Sonny Bono; Walter “Red” Barber; Michael Jordan; and Chaim Potok.

This week major league pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training in Arizona and Florida. All is once again well in the world. To celebrate the start of baseball season, let’s visit one of the funniest routines of all time. Who is on first? Right.

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  1. That Matt Damon movie sounds interesting.

    I lked the article by Mark Galli.

    Oh darn…Mary appeared in Wisconsin back in 1859. She ought to appear to someone in some little town down on its luck financially and the pilgrims will turn the place around. Are you listening, Mary? (Just kidding, folks…Christians every day may have encounters with Mary and other saints who help us as they may be able to. I can’t say as I understand how that all happens. I focus on Jesus myself, but I would never turn down any help that Jesus may send my way in any way that he chooses to send it.)

    • i never had any encounter with Mary or any of the official saints. i do know of a few people that claim they have been visited by Jesus. others claim they have had encounters with angels. these are people that i know, so i have to be less objective when i hear their stories. it is far different when hearing such things first hand rather than reading them in a book…

      take the older gentleman that claimed Jesus visited him one nite when he was about 15 years old. sat on the end of his bed. conversed with him. now this gentleman relating the story did not have any book deals or ministry or special anointment or supra-revelatory insight to share with us commoners. after hearing his story & knowing his past i pondered just what was experienced by that man & why. why would Jesus make such an appearance?

      or the muslim kiosk shop owner in a large downtown SF building that told my friend of the dream he had of a man in white with pierced hands & feet telling him he was the God of all peoples. gives me Holy Spirit goosebumps thinking about it…

      i think that yes, such events are probably more commonplace than we know. and maybe those people that sensationalize their so-called experiences or go around peddling their stories or wearing it like some special favor of God actually trivializes such spiritual encounters that cannot be easily categorized…

      i tend to dismiss the loudest claims of heavenly NDE visits or visits to hell. or lengthy conversations with Paul or apparitions of any sort. i do believe there are very real apparitions of other worldly origin that can be attributed to the powers of darkness as much as those attributed to the powers of light. what would happen if such a supernatural event happened to me? i would hope God preserved my sanity & allowed me to ponder it quietly without too much disruption to my daily existence. it would be an incredible attention getting experience to be sure. how that would impact my faith & resulting reactions something to be sober minded about. yeah, what an interesting consideration…

      • Joseph, I just finished reading Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven. It’s about the horrific car accident he was in where he was considered dead for 90 minutes. He talked about immediately finding himself in heaven and he only came back to life when a man got into the car and prayed and sang. He is very convinced that it was not just some trick of his mind or even a vision, but that he was truly in heaven. He has no fear of death and is eager to return there at the end of his life on earth. I do not doubt him and I do not doubt others that have had various religious/spiritual experiences. Yes, there are going to be charlatans and people who are just mistaken, but those don’t rule out the reality of true visions, visitations and NDEs. Despite the great story of Piper’s visiting heaven, I think it is an even more incredible story of how he recovered from that accident. His body was really mashed!

        • the only book on the subject i took seriously was Steve Sjogren’s story The Day I Died…

          i have read others, but their slant was not like Steve’s. as with any NDE account we can only take the authors at their word. i do not use such claims to shape my theology around. and it doesn’t bolster or diminish my faith any either. they are curious accounts, no? children’s accounts somewhat more of a head scratcher as they are much less inclined to embellish or read into it more than their amazing experience represents…

          i am not convinced though of the super detailed accounts being actual out-of-body experiences. other explanations are worth weighing & the immediate. just as dreams are not considered out-of-body no matter how real they appear to be, so with NDE. it could be all contained within the brain without the essence of the person passing into a totally different spiritual dimension…

          if you read enough of the accounts, you begin to recognize discrepancies that are too obvious to ignore. since all such details cannot be verified, i remain a cautious skeptic accepting that yes, whatever it was that person experienced must have been incredible…

          i just don’t accept it as ‘gospel’…

          just my personal viewpoint. others may take something of more substance from such stories. i won’t make it a theological war issue though. thanx for the interaction…

          • Joseph, I never heard of the Sjogren story, but may look into it. I read Michael Patton’s review of a book called Heaven Is For Real that he did on the Parchment and Pen blog recently. It was about a 4 year old boy who had a NDE. His parents were very surprised by the things he said he saw and heard as they didn’t know how he would have gotten that information otherwise. I may read it sometime. But I agree with you that we don’t take these stories as “Gospel.”

            Just as a tease…that little boy said he saw Jesus in heaven. His parents showed him some drawings various people had made of how they thought Jesus may have looked and he said “no” to all of them until they got to one painting made by a young girl a few years ago who had a vision of Jesus and he said, “Yes! That’s Jesus.” I haven’t read the book but was able to read that much on the Amazon preview pages.

      • Joseph,

        Check out the book of Acts. God does some pretty cool and disruptive stuff, and he is welcome to disrupt my life any time he pleases. The late, great CS Lewis said: “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”

        Joanie, my fellow RC, check out Death and Afterlife, a Theological Introduction by Terence Nichols. It is excellent, has many people’s stories, and gives a good bibliography. I did not like Steve Sjoren’s book all that much.

        • Check out the book of Acts. God does some pretty cool and disruptive stuff, and he is welcome to disrupt my life any time he pleases…

          the book of Acts, or even the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracles, do not a precedent make for the NT saint today. you have no assurance to say such things are available to anyone else other than those mentioned in the scriptural account. have amazing things happened that saints do claim were supernaturally inspired? yes. is it realistic to say such things are always the exception & never the rule? yes.

          is it the usual way God relates to His children today? nope. take those nut cases Crowder & Dunn. they have set the course for utter nonsense in the name of God for young people to get caught up in. yeah. saw much kookiness in the name of God when i was involved in the prophetic movement. heck, look at how Joyner & Bentley manipulated the wild & crazy trances+visions+bodily teleportations into the heavenlies. and all those so-called miracles? lies & exaggeration. and the Extreme Prophetic types like Patricia King claiming all those spooky-spiritual experiences are available to any commoner willing to buy the teaching DVDs & attend their seminars/conferences…


          the Heaven Is For Real story. Jesus really has blue eyes? the Holy Spirit is up in heaven shooting down power to us when we need it? the Holy Spirit not here on earth or in our hearts as the Comforter promised? everyone has wings except Jesus? all people are young children, no adults there?

          okay, so the kid has been encouraged by parents & well-meaning religious types to re-review the details. and any subtle suggestion has been dutifully filtered out by this kid thru the years…

          marian apparitions? i do not think they are significant to one’s faith. didn’t think so when i was within the RCC. did some of my relatives have great devotion for them? yes. did i attempt to discredit or argue for their validity or deception? nope. they were tangential elements in my otherwise Jesus centered faith experience. does faith encourage these other-worldly things to happen? maybe. however, after witnessing some very strange ‘manifestations’ claimed by the uber-prophetic types that were claimed to be Holy Spirit sourced, i will stay quite comfortable in my skeptical outlook & keep focused on the sure things, not the rarer sensational ones…

        • Libby, I checked out the book you recommended on Amazon and read the preview pages you can see there. It looks interesting. I will put it on my list of books to be read. Thanks!

          Joseph, I always think of Jesus as he walked the earth as having brown eyes as I think most Middle Eastern people have. But I did read that they can have blue eyes as well. Not that it really matters, of course!

            For anyone interested, there is Michael Patton’s review of the book Heaven Is For Real. It shows the painting the young girl made that the young boy pointed out as looking like Jesus.

          • I do not like the idea of other people attempting to make a visual representation of Jesus. I mean, I happen to like the way each one of us has a slightly different mind picture of Jesus as He walked among us, let alone after He rose again in a glorified body…

            And those two bodies may not have been exactly the same anyway. And would Jesus appear to us as someone we would immediately recognize? What if He appears to each of us in a different way? Nothing in scripture details His human features which I believe is deliberate. It seems that level of detail left out on purpose…

            Blue eyes? Brown eyes? Curly brown hair? Long? Short? A burly build? Beard?

            Artists have represented Jesus throughout the centuries in masterpieces that really are true works of art. I have my own idea of what He may look like, but then I do not think it the standard others should be measured against. I believe though that if I had such an experience, how Jesus appeared to me would be for my recognition more than the final word on the subject. I have had very vivid dreams with Jesus in them, but the physical details were not the focus of my attention & really I could not today tell you what exactly He looked like in them. He knows our propensity toward idolatry & I think such details would be more distraction than encouragement. Same with the concept of relics. I simply do not think them essential to my faith although others find them inspiring…

            Could be in any NDE or deeply mystical vision there is artistic license in the details simply because God is not willing to be contained in any one experience. In other words, He does not want to be locked into one representation of a temporal encounter so as to keep us from inordinate focus on that event. Just my own perspective really. So no one dramatic experience trumps any other. And there is just enough head-scratching questionable stuff to keep us focused on the essential things, not the temporal…

  2. “I’m not quite ready to become Amish and unplug everything, but I’m getting there.”
    The Amish don’t want you to unplug. They want you to buy more ELECTRIC heaters!
    does no one else see the irony of this obvious marketing ploy. if the Amish had TVs they’d be pissed! 😉

    • And don’t forget they use computers and credit card machines to take your money when you buy from them. But don’t give the women a washing machine, no sir, that would be evil.

    • David Cornwell says

      I live near lots of Amish people and not far from Shipshewana, Indiana. They are great people, although very contradictory in their local rules and regulations. They are also some of the best entrepreneurs around. Anything branded with the word “Amish” will attract buyers and visitors.

      • “Anything branded with the word “Amish” will attract buyers and visitors.”
        exactly! this whole thing is a farce. first it was fake “amish” jellies, quilts, & furniture, now it’s ELECTRIC gizmos, next it will be “Amish” made Anti-Spyware – w/ the slogan: This Anti-Spyware will work harded & KILL & DESTROY many attackers! 😉

    • that Amish miracle heater made in China…

      must be a new sect established there…

      the wooden mantel made here in the good ol’ USofA by the less-strict Amish artisans. i am sure they are still laughing all the way to the bank & manage their profits via online banking modern convenience…

      what a fine example of marketing spin with just enough total disclosure to get around the false advertisement restrictions in this country. to be honest, i absolutely started laughing out loud the first i saw the full page advertisement for it…

      Lord, thanx for the chuckle… 😉

      • the Amish in China ?? actually, I find that uplifting and hopeful, just don’t send too many, we need lots of them here too ya’ know….

  3. Timothy Beal is very interesting. I think we Christians put our spin on the Bible too often, not letting it put its spin on us. It has taken me a long time to realize this myself. Have a good relaxing Saturday.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Yeah, that was a really neat article, in my opinion. One of the most valuable things I got out of my graduate studies was the freedom to let the bible speak for itself without apologies for paradox. That freedom has really given me a greater love for the bible. The irony of that is that some of my colleagues would likely see that freedom as being hostile to the bible. At any rate, this was a good paragraph in the Beal article:

      Nor can we presume that such contradictions are stupid mistakes, editorial oversights or divine typos. We’ll never know all the details about the history of the development of the literature now in our Bibles. What we do know is that it was thousands of years in the making and involved countless people writing, editing, copying, canonizing, publishing and so on. Can we honestly believe that, if agreement and consistency were the goal, such discrepancies would not have been fixed and such rough seams mended long ago? That creation stories would have been made to conform or be removed? Could all those many, many people involved in the development of biblical literature and the canon of Scriptures have been so blind, so stupid? It’s modern arrogance to imagine so. The Bible canonizes contradiction.

      • David Cornwell says

        “agreement and consistency were the goal,”

        There has been very little in the history of Christianity itself that has “agreement and consistency” in its record. In my opinion some of the doctrinal battles we have will never be resolved. We humans do not have all the answers and we all see things from a different angle. Can it be that truth itself is inconsistent at times, and contradictory at times? We draw things black and white at our own peril. Truth has its own depth and width that our minds will never adequately comprehend.

        As far as the bible is concerned we often read the meaning into it that we want to see.

  4. I to want to see the Adjustment Bureu…I’ve read about it and watched the trailer on Youtube.

    Here’s another movie that raises a lot of spiritual questions that I also want to see. I’ve mentioned this to a Christian friend who I talk to. It’s called “Hereafter” by Clint Eastwood. Think of all the spiritual discussions that can arise from this one….living with scars, coping and dealing with grief, why evil happens, questions about death, etc…

  5. My hands get cold easily. And paper is warmer than plastic.

  6. ohmygosh that Abbott and Costello routine made me laugh ’til I cried when I first heard it as a kid. It’s still good for a chuckle and remembered hysteria. 🙂

  7. I am mostly enthusiastic about Watson; any technology which might help produce meaningful internet search results has my thumbs-up.

    But there is a more than subtle allure about Watson: it is the false hope that black-and-white, rules-based thinking – so common among evangelicals and fundamentals – if made more intricate, complex, and even automated can actually work. The Pharisees tried and failed, but they didn’t have 21st century technology. Face it: in no time at all, some entrepreneurial-minded evangelical marketeer will come up with a “knowing God’s will” program based on QA technology, and it is going to sell billions.

    But the fact is humans are not meant to think like computers; life is not a computer program. We are far more complex but yet more simple in design than Watson. Our minds are not designed to use the binary logic of computers, which reduces life to a series of on or off switches. It’s ok to let a machine perform some menial calculation – no matter how grandiose, but encourage humans to think like creatures created in the image of an infinite, personal, and loving God, not like machines.

  8. The Grammy’s got one thing right: Esperanza Spalding is one of the most amazing musicians out there.

  9. The Adjustment Bureau sounds interesting . . . although I’m not sure if I like the idea of God’s agents being stopped by water, that just doesn’t make since in light of baptism, Jesus walking on water, and turning water into wine. However, if people are asking questions about free will, divine fate, and God, then this sounds like a good movie to go see and be ready to discuss.

    My family and I are in a community where one of the Borders stores is closing, and it saddens us. We visit the library, buy books through Amazon, second hand bookstores, and Christian bookstores, but Borders has been a community hub with it’s coffee shop, and just the joy of browsing through books. We usually have great conversations with friends, and acquaintances there, including conversations about faith. Books will never lose their appeal as long as there are people who read them. Let’s keep reading books and rebel against the Farenheit 451 generation! 🙂

  10. Jeff, a Marian apparition in Wisconsin, in a place called Champion? Validated this year? Sounds like an omen to me! 😉

    • Well, the Green Bay Packers from Wisconsin already won the biggest football game of the year. And the Wisconsin Badgers basketball team beat the number one team in the nation last week. What more do they get from this?

      • Um, any other sporting events coming up with a Wisconsin team in, run down to the bookies and plonk a bet on them?


        • Martha, the only sporting event going on in Wisconsin right now pits the teacher’s union against the governor of our state. He’s trying to cut the financial deficit by eliminating their collective bargaining rights and asking them to pay a portion of their medical insurance and pension plan. It’s escalated into a Republican vs Democrat row, with the Democrat State senators fleeing to Illinois to escape having to vote on the bill. The State Capitol has become a giant sleep-over of UW students and truant teachers. I have no idea what odds the bookies are giving 🙂

        • @ Martha — btw, I l don’t think the VM has made an appearance, but Jesse Jackson was in Madison yesterday.

        • THAT’S MY WISCONSIN!! =)

  11. As Scott Simon said on Weekend Edition this morning, “Watson” may be able to answer the question “Why did the chicken cross the road”, but he wouldn’t understand why that might be funny …

    Case in point …”Who’s On First.” When talent and great writing combine, no laugh track is required to cue our response. “Watson” would have been so totally confused by this one! We’re still unique and wonderfully made as human beings. (So …Lou Costello was a lefty, too, huh?)

    Jeff, thanks for the smiles.

  12. Rick Warren is on the same list as Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga? We all should be so proud. 😛

  13. Regarding Twitter, Watson, and spiritual implications of technology, I think that in some way technology may prevent Christianity from becoming a dead religion. For example, I am not aware of a single church out of 300+ in my community where I can join with others to learn how to pray the Daily Office, but I found a podcast on iTunes with the Daily office for each day. There is also a Taize podcast, although once in a while a local Catholic church will have a Taize service.

    This may be a sign of the future: what local churches remain will be dead, commercialized, self-help, worship-tainment mega-plexes, while a diaspora of believers will remain connected across the globe via the internet and other non-traditional communication channels. Nevertheless, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      To me this says that the local churches have totally dropped the ball and are out of touch with the spiritual needs of their flocks. Thus technology picks up the slack. Your choice of the word “diaspora” to describe those who are forced to turn to virtual communities to get what the local church should be providing is an apt one. Thinking back on the biblical stories of diaspora, it seems that most of the time diaspora is a tool God uses to chasten his people (corporately, not individually). From that chastening comes a wake-up-call and some learning-the-hard-way growth.

      In the article about Warren and Twitter, Warren is quoted as saying, “Technology is never an end in itself and the message still trumps the medium.” I think this is a very myopic observation. As clichéd as the phrase has become, Marshall McLuhan’s statement that the medium is the message has a lot of truth in it.

      • I agree. It sounds like an attempt at wish-fulfillment on Warrens part: if he thinks the media doesn’t taint the message, then it will be so. Heck, after all, he’s Rick Warren, right?

  14. “The Bible is not a book of answers but a library of questions. As such it opens up space for us to explore different voices and perspectives, to discuss, to disagree and, above all, to think. Too often, however, that’s not what happens…” ~Timothy Beal


  15. Grr. I leave the States for a year and a half and Borders goes out of business? I should have bought more books! Nooo!

    This is what happens when everyone uses those darn Kindles and E-Readers . . .

  16. Love, love, love Abbott & Costello — they will never go out of style!

    We don’t have a Borders around here, but I’m doing my part to support our local B&N every chance I get! This is one reader who will NEVER own a Kindle, e-Reader, Nook, or any of those other shiny toys-masquerading-as-books. I want a real, living, breathing BOOK in my hands, thank you!

    • Support your public libraries, too. They also buy and shelve real paper books and are an important “consumer” of the publishing industry. When their circulation is up, they also get more public funding…to buy more books. Libraries may go the way of the dinosaur if we don’t keep using them!