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Archive for July, 2011

The generative peculiarity of the twenty-third Psalm lies in its refusal to compromise the threat.

The valley of deep darkness (traditionally, ‘the valley of the shadow of death’) and the surrounding enemies remain intact. Their destructive capacity is not underestimated nor is the enemies’ sinister intention disavowed. They are simply left, in the poetics of the psalm, to be what they are. (more…)

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Paul is not pollyannish in the face of evil’s reality.

The apostle names opposition to God’s purposes with supple and varied vocabulary. There are ‘principalities and powers’, ‘rulers’, ‘dominions’, and ‘authorities’. Paul can discourse widely upon the power of sin and death. He lays hold of imagery of warfare, its weapons, and its equipment to paint the picture of the bellicose environment in which the follower of Jesus sooner or later discovers himself.

Yet in the twelfth chapter of his letter to the Romans, as he describes the confrontation of good with evil, Paul’s language is decidedly civilian.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21 NRSV)

Paul places his readers in the power position. They are not so much potential victims of evil as its conqueror. Yet the battle tactics are asymmetrical. They will not experience their conquest over evil as the result of employing evil’s own tools. (more…)

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The human being, in his or her majestic complexity, is almost inscrutable.

We only rarely know ourselves, and never exhaustibly. How then can we know another?

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. (Proverbs 20:5 ESV)

What is his end game? What does she want? What is his deepest passion? How can she find what she seeks? (more…)

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The apostle Paul seems incapable of discerning the intentions of Israel’s God in straight lines and transparent mathematics. Something is always up. Something deeper than we know is in the mix.

When Paul traces mercy’s purpose, mystery—though neither confusion nor cluelessness—is axiomatic. (more…)

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When the apostle Paul’s discourse turns doxological, it frequently takes the shape of rhetorical questions hurled with gusto into the public arena that his letters create.

Yet Paul is confident enough of his own bearing in the story which fuels his letter-writing that he inserts himself and the answers that course through him into the mix. Paul who asks is Paul who must answer. Perhaps there is too much risk that rhetorical questions might be answered inaccurately by his correspondents. More likely, Paul’s passion seizes the day and declares into the very questions that he has forged.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.‘ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

These are the queries of a man who has known bitter experience that could plausibly be construed as abandonment by God. A man who has known both extra- and quasi-judicial condemnation, who has been anathematized by his social and religious kin groups would be a strange duck if he had never wondered whether some deep truth resides in their accusation.

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When the moment came, I chose not to stand.

Out with friends and a raft of new acquaintances with their arms full of food they were hell bent on sharing with everybody, I take in for the first time an Indianapolis ritual that—frankly—until this year never held much appeal. (more…)

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