Steve Jobs

I just finished reading the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. In many ways, it struck me as a stereotypical story of the Baby Boomers. Jobs came of age in the Sixties and his adoptive father was a hard working veteran who was able to provide a middle class upbringing to Steve.

He dropped acid, loved the Beatles and Dylan and got into eastern religion. He flew to India and spent time there, then embraced strange practices such as week long fasts or eating only a certain fruit for weeks at a time. He was a vegetarian who liked going around barefoot and didn’t shower because he was convinced that his diet prevented body odor. He took a pilgrimage to India and embraced meditation. He believed that all the religions are just different doors into the same room. He spurned cheaper state colleges so he could attend offbeat Reed College, in something of a spoiled fit. He got his girlfriend pregnant and told her he was okay with her getting an abortion, then ignored his daughter for years after she was born. He was petulant and hurtful to people, excusing his behavior as “just the way I am.” His affinity for alternative therapy probably killed him because he tried fruit juices and other offbeat treatments instead of surgery, until it was too late.

His aesthetic taste was immaculate and he spurred the development of great products. He pushed people to do far more than they thought they were capable of in search of perfect products. He was a visionary. And yet his life is, like all of our lives, sad in that it ended in a death that snuffed him out and took his knowledge to the grave with him. I hope that somehow he turned to Christ in his last hours and embraced the faith that he was taught as a young boy in the Lutheran Church. There is no evidence that this happened, but who knows what prayers he might have offered in the midst of his pain?

But his life, to me, summarizes the Boomers: all religions are the same, ultimate truth does not matter as much as some sort of enlightenment (which does not impact how we act towards one another), talk the talk about materialism whilst pursuing consumerism with a vengeance, and embrace weird therapies instead of western medicine. Future historians will be able to look at his life as a template for what the Sixties generation believed and how they lived it out.


Vladislav Surkov

The latest issue of the London Review of Books has a fascinating article on someone I had never heard of, but who is a power behind the throne in Russia, his name is Vladislav Surkov. Apparently he wrote a novel called Almost Zero under the pen name of Natan Dubovitsky. The LRB says:

The novel is a satire of contemporary Russia whose hero, Egor, is a corrupt PR man happy to serve anyone who’ll pay the rent. A former publisher of avant-garde poetry, he now buys texts from impoverished underground writers, then sells the rights to rich bureaucrats and gangsters with artistic ambitions who publish them under their own names. The world of PR and publishing as portrayed in the novel is extremely dangerous. Publishing houses have their own gangs, whose members shoot each other over the rights to Nabokov and Pushkin, and the secret services infiltrate them for their own murky ends. It’s exactly the sort of book Surkov’s youth groups burn on Red Square.

The article outlines his early life:

In the 1980s and early 1990s Russia was experimenting with different modes at a dizzying rate: Soviet stagnation led to perestroika, which led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, liberal euphoria, then economic disaster. How to believe in anything when everything around you is changing so fast? Surkov abandoned a range of university careers from metallurgy to theatre directing, put in a spell in the army, went to bohemian parties, had regular violent altercations (he was expelled from drama school for fighting). Surkov, it said (or allegedly said) in one of the US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, had always thought of himself as an unrecognised genius, but it took him a while to find his metier.

He trained at a martial arts club with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then one of Russia’s emerging young business stars. Khodorkovsky took him on as a bodyguard, saw he had more use for his brains than his muscles and promoted him to PR manager. He became known for his ability not only to think up ingenious PR campaigns but to manipulate others into getting them distributed in the major media with a mixture of charm, aggression and bribery. ‘Surkov acts like a Chekist of the 1920s and 1930s,’ Dmitry Oreshkin, a political analyst, said. ‘He can always sniff out your weak spot.’ Top jobs followed at banks and TV channels. In 1999 he was invited to join Yeltsin’s presidential administration. Looking more like a designer than a bureaucrat, he stood out from the rest. He was one of the key spin doctors behind the promotion of Putin for president in 2000. Since then, while many of his colleagues have fallen from grace, Surkov has managed to stay in the game by remaking himself to suit his masters’ needs. ‘Slava is a vessel,’ according to Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition politician: ‘Under Yeltsin he was a democrat, under Putin he’s an autocrat.’

A Chain of Gods

In the book The New Mormon Challenge, Paul Copan and William Lane Craig quote Mormon theologian David H. Bailey as follows:

“In that case God is not the being who crafted the universe at the big bang. If there is such a being, it is a deity beyond him.” In this breathtaking affirmation, Bailey states that God – that is, the typical Mormon God (Elohim) described by Joseph Smith and worshipped by million of Mormons – is not truly God. Rather, the true God is beyond him; the true God is the Creator of the universe ex nihilo. Bailey hastens to add that “Mormon theology, of course, allows the possibility of a hierarchy of deities (D&C 121:28).”

The quote is from Bailey’s essay “Scientific Foundations of Mormon Theology.”

The Calvary Chapel Method

One imperative for the life of the Church is Biblical saturation. The doctrinal and textual ignorance of Christians can never be underestimated – myself included. Sunday morning sermons are not the primary place to combat this problem. In the context of the liturgy, sermons must hold to a certain, shorter length and they do not allow for interaction. My belief is that the pastor should hew to the lectionary cycle and preach from it on Sunday mornings.

So how can the Church address the wider deficiencies amongst Christians? I think that what Calvary Chapel has done in their verse by verse exposition of Scripture is one helpful approach. A pastor or another teacher could take one night a week and go through every book of the Bible, verse by verse, basically riffing on the text as he goes and perhaps taking questions – though not necessarily. Calvary does this admirably, but unfortunately with some preconceptions (i.e., pretrib rapture is a tenet of the faith) that hamper their results. Nevertheless, gettings taught on everything instead of just the things that interest the pastor leads to a much deeper appreciation of Scripture, theology and the sweep of God’s story. This is something that can be done ecumenically, no single denomination has a monopoly on the Bible. Any church can do it, all of us should do it.

Josephus on Transvestites in 70 A.D.

The depravity of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in 70 A.D. is highlighted by Josephus in this account:

for he permitted them to do all things that any of them desired to do, while their inclination to plunder was insatiable, as was their zeal in searching the houses of the rich; and for the murdering of the men, and abusing of the women, it was sport to them. They also devoured what spoils they had taken, together with their blood, and indulged themselves in feminine wantonness, without any disturbance, till they were satiated therewith; while they decked their hair, and put on women’s garments, and were besmeared over with ointments; and that they might appear very comely, they had paints under their eyes, and imitated not only the ornaments, but also the lusts of women, and were guilty of such intolerable uncleanness, that they invented unlawful pleasures of that sort. And thus did they roll themselves up and down the city, as in a brothel-house, and defiled it entirely with their impure actions; nay, while their faces looked like the faces of women, they killed with their right hands; and when their gait was effeminate, they presently attacked men, and became warriors, and drew their swords from under their finely dyed cloaks, and ran every body through whom they alighted upon.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Rusty Reno on James Jordan

Over at First Things there is a nice column that consists of the forward to the new book in honor of James Jordan. It is written by Rusty Reno, who says in part:

James B. Jordan is remarkable. There are plenty of Bible preachers in America who know the Scriptures well. Lots of professors read books in philosophy, history, and literature and have all sorts of interesting things to say about culture. Pundits cultivate a sharp, pungent, and readable style. But Jim is perhaps unique. Who else writes detailed interpretations of the Book of Daniel and quotes Allen Tate’s poetry? Who else can give a lecture on echoes of Leviticus in the apocalyptic vision of Zechariah and then chat over cigars about Friedrich von Hayek and Richard Weaver? Moreover, who can cover such a range with vivid images, punchy tag lines, and memorable turns of phrase? Not many, which is why I’ve come to think of Jim Jordan as one of the most important Christian intellectuals of our day.

Jim knows a great deal, but I have no doubt that the electricity in his writing and conversation come from his biblical vision. He does something remarkable. He takes the cultic core of the Old Testament—Temple and Priesthood, altar and sacrifice—and reads it into the full sweep of the biblical witness. The result is not the usual sort of “theological” interpretation we’re all familiar with: Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament explained by way of warmed-over theologies of substitutionary atonement or observations that really amount to little more than restating New Testament passages. Instead, Jim takes texts such as Leviticus seriously on their own terms. He brings to life the intense concreteness of tabernacle and sanctuary, and he allows the prophets a retrospective restoration as well as a prospective anticipation. As Jim has helped me see, the Scriptures are forever reaching back and renewing even as they reach forward to fulfillment in Christ.

Book of Mormon Geography – Why?

The editor(s) of the Book of Mormon repeatedly make it clear that the work is intended for a future readership – namely, our present day (see Mormon, chapter 3, for example). Given that this is the case, what is the point of the geography that we cannot decipher? The LDS Church has made it clear that no one really knows where the geographical locations in the BOM are located. And yet there is a large amount of geographical detail in the book. Why would past authors who knew that the work was intended for a future readership include all these details that are next to useless for our understanding of the work and do not add to our ability to understand the text?


The Origins of Women’s Ordination in the Episcopal Church

So how did it all begin? Without going into great detail, we can look at the seventies and the illegal ordinations that happened at that time. The heretic James Pike had previously ordained a woman to the diaconate, but the ball really got rolling in 1974.

In the book “Anglican Communion in Crisis”, Miranda Hassett writes:
…women deputies were not accepted by General Convention until 1967. By this time the controversial liberal bishop James Pike had already ordained a woman as a deacon, an ordained role oriented toward service and without all the sacramental duties of the priesthood. With the encouragement of the women’s movement in the larger society, other breakthroughs followed quickly. The General Convention of 1970 accepted female deacons, and the 1976 Convention admitted women to the priesthood, following the unauthorized 1974 ordinations of eleven women as priests. The first Episcopal woman bishop, Barbara Harris, was consecrated in 1989.
In “A Brief History of the Episcopal Church”, David Lynn Holmes writes:
Nevertheless, in the summer of 1974, in Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate, eleven women deacons were ordained to the priesthood by three Episcopal bishops. Two of the bishops were retired; the third had resigned as bishop of Pennsylvania earlier in the year. Neither the bishops, nor the deacons, nor the parish had authorization for the ordinations. In an emergency session, the House of Bishops declared the ordinations invalid and rebuked the ordainers.” (page 168)
Time magazine has articles on these ordinations here, here and here. And now, a mere three decades later, “conservatives” all over the place accept this practice, foisted upon the church by radicals and heretics, as perfectly fine and normal.

No Capitalist Civilization

Discussing the London riots for the London Review of Books, Marxist Slavoj Zizek makes a telling observation on capitalist civilization in the midst of an otherwise dreary review:

Alain Badiou has argued that we live in a social space which is increasingly experienced as ‘worldless’: in such a space, the only form protest can takes is meaningless violence. Perhaps this is one of the main dangers of capitalism: although by virtue of being global it encompasses the whole world, it sustains a ‘worldless’ ideological constellation in which people are deprived of their ways of locating meaning. The fundamental lesson of globalisation is that capitalism can accomodate itself to all civilizations, from Christian to Hindu or Buddhist, from West to East: there is no global ‘capitalist worldview’, no ‘capitalist civilization’ proper. The global dimension of captialism represents truth without meaning.

Sounds like Baudrillard. But I believe he is right. Although capitalism rose from within Christendom, it has now supplanted Christendom to become a global civilization without spiritual underpinnings. Acquisition, risk, thrift and private property are good things when tethered to a moral framework, but now when they themselves are the moral framework.