I read this profound little book to my children when they were small and bought a copy for my grandaughter yesterday. How many books about God first published in 1956 are still in print today? Yet this can still be had at any Woolworths store for less than three dollars. The text by Jane Werner Watson is simple but childlike in its trust. The marvelous drawings by the incomparable Eloise Wilkin remain moving and quietly meditative with their large cherubic faces marvelling at creation's wonders great and small. Try to beat the following for a little piece of natural theology.
Look at the stars in the evening sky.
so many millions of miles away
that the light you see shining left its star
long, long years before you were born
Yet even beyond the furthest star,God knows the way.
Think of the snow-capped mountain peaks,
Those peaks were crumbling away with
age before the first people lived on earth.
Yet when they were raised up sharp and new
God was there, too.
Bend down to touch the smallest flower.
Watch the busy ant tugging at his load.
See the flash of jewels on the insect's back.
This tiny world your two hands could span,
like the oceans and mountains and far-off stars,
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Wesley’s sermon No. 64, “The New Creation,” written in 1785, includes many speculations, and reflects his unfaltering optimism of grace. He looks forward to remarkable changes in the galaxies above us and in the earth's own atmosphere and elements. The plant and animal kingdom will share in this cosmic renewal. The greatest change of all will be “An unmixed state of holiness and happiness far superior to that which Adam enjoyed in paradise.” There is here no sitting around on clouds playing golden harps while in some disembodied state. The bodily resurrection will be matched by a cosmic renewal of all creation. What implications might this have for a Christian view of animals? If we are to treat our bodies with respect for they are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and will one day be raised in glory, how then should we treat the natural world, including animals, which will also share in that cosmic renewal? In “The General Deliverance” (Sermon 60) Wesley asks, how the love of God to all his creatures is compatible with the suffering we see around us. He is seeking in part to resolve the philosophical problem of evil. Wesley views the pre-fallen animal creation as “more highly exalted in intelligence than they are today.” Therefore, it did not surprise Eve to hear the serpent speak. Humanity was the channel of conveyance between God and the creation. When this channel was blocked or broken the “brute creation” was plunged into the Fall along with Adam and Eve. The brute creation groans and, though we don’t hear it, God does. “He knoweth all their pain, and is bringing them nearer and nearer to the birth which shall be accomplished in its season.” Wesley sees the word of God in Romans 8 about the deliverance of creation very seriously, foreseeing even the possibility of animals being exalted to the present intellectual ability of human beings. Some have argued that the Western tradition up until Descartes believed that animals had souls. Wesley seems to hold this view, speculating that God might even give animals, in the redeemed order, the capacity to love God. "May I be permitted," Wesley asks, "to conjecture concerning the brute creation? What, if it should then please the all-wise, the all-gracious Creator to raise them higher in the scale of beings? What, if it should please him, when he makes us “equal to angels,” to make them what we are now, - creatures capable of God; capable of knowing and loving and enjoying the Author of their being? If it should be so, ought our eye be evil because he is good? However this be, he will certainly do what will be most for his own glory." For many people the problem of animal pain is the worst aspect of moral evil, for animals are not moral beings. [This why when watching a battle scene in a movie you might find yourself saying when a horse is killed, “Oh not the horses! They haven’t done anything wrong!”] Wesley goes some way toward answering this by hypothesising that they also may have something better ahead of them in the new heavens and the new earth. Wesley attempts to answer the theological problem of evil, in a felix culpa fashion, by hypothesising that animals may also have something better ahead of them in the new heavens and the new earth. Just as John Wesley thought that the creation of a new world, purged of everything that hurts or kills, was the only final answer to the problem of evil, perhaps an eschatological scenario that includes the animal kingdom will help give us greater compassion toward animals. According to Wesley, God is concerned “every moment for what befalls every creature upon earth; and more especially for anything that befalls any of the children of men.” This may seem hard to believe considering the “complicated wickedness” and “complicated misery” we see on every side. Yet it remains true that all God’s wisdom is employed for the good of his creatures, both human and non-human. In the final analysis, the only satisfactory answer to the problem of evil for Wesley is that “It will not always be thus.” In eschatology, we find some hope in the face of animal suffering. Believers are called to live out in the now, the principles of the world that is to come. Generally the Christian tradition has respected the body, since it is destined for resurrection. Paul, for example, argues against both gluttony and fornication (in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20), on the basis that the body will participate in the resurrection. Nothing should be done with the body in this world that would be inappropriate in the next. A similar respect needs to be learned for the environment and for non-human life forms, since these also will participate in the general restoration of all things in the new heavens and the new earth. (Wesley became a vegetarian though it is not clear that it was for this particular reason.) Echoing Wesley, either consciously or unconsciously, animal ethicist Andrew Linzey reminds us that “the world as we know it is not the only possible world.” As an eschatological community, the Church is to give a watching world some glimpse of that world to come if it is to be faithful to its trust.  Based on Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.”  John Wesley, Sermon LX, “The General Deliverance,” in Vol. VI of The Works of John Wesley [Jackson ed.] (Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1979 reprint of 1872 edition issued by the Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London), 241-52.  Sermons in Works (BCE), 437.  Ibid, 438-40.  Wesley, Works (Jackson edition) VI:250.  Felix culpa is a Latin expression meaning “O blessed fault!” It refers to Augustine’s view that God must have allowed the fall to take place because he had something far greater in mind. That is a blessed fault that leads the final renewal of all creation in the eschaton.  Sermons, in Works (BCE), 540. John Wesley, Sermon LXIII, “The General Spread of the Gospel,” in Vol. VI ofThe Works of John Wesley [Jackson ed.] (Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 1979 reprint of 1872 edition issued by the Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London), 499.  Andrew Linzey, Christianity and the Rights of Animals (New York: Crossroads, 1987), 40-41.
In this final post on Animal Theology I want to look at some of John Wesley 's reflections on the future state of the planet in his sermons on "The General Deliverance" and "On the General Spread of the Gospel." He asks how the love of God toward all of his creatures can be compatible with the suffering we see around us. He views the pre-fallen animal creation as “more highly exalted in intelligence than they are today.” Therefore, it did not surprise Eve to hear the serpent speak.
Some have argued that the Western tradition up until Descartes believed that animals had souls. Wesley seems to hold this pre-Cartesian view, speculating that God might even give animals, in the redeemed order, the capacity to love him.
According to Wesley, God is concerned “every moment for what befalls every creature upon earth; and more especially for anything that befalls any of the children of men.” This may seem hard to believe considering the “complicated wickedness” and “complicated misery” we see on every side. Yet it remains true that all God’s wisdom is employed for the good of his creatures, both human and non-human. In the final analysis, the only satisfactory answer to the problem of evil for Wesley is that “It will not always be thus.” In a felix culpa fashion, he hypothesises that animals may also have something better ahead of them in the new heavens and the new earth. The creation of a new world, purged of everything that hurts or kills, is the only final answer to the problem of evil. Perhaps an eschatological scenario that includes the animal kingdom will help give us greater compassion toward animals.
In eschatology, we find some hope in the face of animal suffering. Believers are called to live out in the now, the principles of the world that is to come. Generally the Christian tradition has respected the body, since it is destined for resurrection. Paul, for example, argues against both gluttony and fornication (in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20), on the basis that the body will participate in the resurrection. Nothing should be done with the body in this world that would be inappropriate in the next. A similar respect needs to be learned for the environment and for non-human life forms, since these also will participate in the general restoration of all things in the new heavens and the new earth. As the eschatological community the Church is to give a watching world some glimpse of that world to come if it is to be faithful to its trust. Surely the ethical treatment of animals must be part of that witness.
From the Title Banner: "JIM SCULLY - five-year Prisoner of War in 'Nam. DR. RAYMOND COREY - frustrated physicist. ANN REYNOLDS - battling to make it on her own in a world that refuses to listen to her. JEFF TURNER - a runaway from the regimentation of life. Four losers lost in the Bermuda Triangle - four losers finding a new beginning in the untouched world of the prehistoric past." The Slings and Arrows Comic Guide refers to this series disparagingly as "Bonkers example of Marvel at its hippy best" and as "Ideological Quarrels in the Land that Time Forgot." The letters page looks hopefully forward to Skull the Slayer #200. This was wishful thinking at best because the series would be cancelled with the next number (#8) and the story arc finished off in Marvel Two-in-One #35 and #36. Here's the synopsis I provided for the Marvel Comics Database:
Jim Scully and his crew arrive at the Inca City of Gold led by the guide Villac Umu. Upon arrival Umu turns on them and they are captured by Viracocha the Supreme Inca. Meanwhile back in Florida, Jeff Turner's father, Senator Stoneface Turner is extorting Scully's ex-Nam nemesis Freddy Lancer to fly into the Bermuda Triangle and bring his son back. Lancer has secured a fleet of used jet fighters from an African war and a crew of mercenaries including a mean number called Newkirk. Lancer reveals that he is not only motivated by the money Senator Turner is paying him but also has a score to settle with Scully from their days in Viet-Nam. Back in the City of Gold, Scully and his friends are led to a towering ziggurat which looks suspicuously like a good place for human sacrifice. As the sun rises a shadow is cast from the ziggurat that triggers the opening of pits that swallow up Ray, Anne and Jeff into one pit and Scully into another. The imperilled three must face a pair of chained pteranodons with just enough reach to tear their heads off. Meanwhile Scully must go up against a four ton stegosaurus. Ann Reynolds decides she will dispatch the pteranodons with a grenade retreived from the corpse of a previous victim. The belt that Scully retrieved from a dead alien a few days earlier begins to glow brightly and increases his strength giving him an advantage over the raging stegosaurus. Seeing an opportunity to stage a coup, the High Priest Villac Umu pushes Viracocha the Supreme Inca into the pit with Scully and the stegosaurus. Oddly Viracocha begins to speak in colloquial American English which raises Scully's suspicions. Scully finishes off the stegosaurus which crashes through the wall into the next pit just as Ann detonates the grenade that kills the pteranodons. Viracocha then reveals that he is in fact Captain Victor Cochran, USN, "stranded thirty-one years ago and now resident Sun-God!" Next: The Sky Riders!
I liked Bill Mantlo's work on Rom and The Incredible Hulk, and this series seems to display more of his creativity. This is my first read of Skull and I give this issue 3 stars.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
David Millikan (pictured), Imperfect Company: Power and Control in an Australian Christian Cult(Sydney: ABC Books, 1991). This is a disturbing book. It shows the degree to which people will submit themselves to the spiritual authority of others even when those others are unremarkable, small-minded, pathetic individuals without any particular spiritual charisma. It narrates the story of the “Tinker Tailor” (TT) sect of sinless perfectionists that emerged out of Sydney Evangelicalism in the 1940s and continues to exert an influence over a small number of people even to this day. The harshness, brutality and breathtaking hubris of Del Agnew and Lindsay Grant is difficult to accept as anything other than evil, though Millikan wants to resist placing them in this category lest we exempt ourselves from the capacity to exhibit similar behaviours. The book displays much wisdom and argues for a balanced approach to spirituality that does not lead to dehumanization, unhealthy withdrawal from the world, or cultural iconoclasm.
While it is clear that the author wants to position himself in the broad stream of orthodox Christianity it is equally clear that he is an outsider to Evangelicalism and less than warm toward Evangelical faith. His analysis sometimes lacks sophistication and there are errors that betray a lack of deep familiarity with the literature on Evangelicalism and related movements (e.g. the word “Pentecostal” is consistently misspelled and the footnotes do not demonstrate much reading in Wesleyan theology or serious theological works on perfectionism.) There is also a good deal of guilt-by-association here. While the writings of Oswald Chambers, Hannah Whithall Smith and Andrew Murray may have a strain of mysticism to them that is at times “super spiritual,” many thousands of Evangelical Christians have benefited from reading them without falling into the kind of spiritual abuse of which the TT group is clearly guilty. One might gain the impression from reading this book that the Salvation Army held the same kind of extreme views as TT because it “maintains a commitment to perfectionism in their [sic] official doctrines.” Clearly the Army (and other historic churches in the Wesleyan tradition) should not be placed in the same category of aberrational religion.
The most disappointing feature of Millikan’s handling of the Evangelical tradition is his misreading and misrepresentation of John Wesley. His claim that Wesley “had claimed the status of perfection” (p. 174) is contrary to plain matter of fact. Wesley, in fact disavowed on more than one occasion that he lived up to the picture he drew of the entirely sanctified believer. He was willing (perhaps naively) to accept the genuineness of others’ testimony to that experience but never claimed it for himself. “Sinless perfection” was a term he strongly rejected because it gave the impression of an absolute state of perfection from which it was impossible to fall. In fact Wesley placed many important qualifications around the term that make it clear that the kind of perfection he envisaged was of a relative nature, in fact much like the description Millikan gives as the New Testament view of the matter on pp.178-180. Wesley did not exactly write the Twenty-five Articles of the United Methodist Church as Millikan states (p.181). They are his abridgement of the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles, the wording being drawn from the original. Nonetheless Millikan’s attribution of Article 12 to Wesley clashes with the statement that the founder of Methodism thought himself to be perfect - “They are to be condemned who say that they can no more sin as long as they lire here; or deny the place of forgiveness to those who truly repent.” In any case, Wesley did not see this article as challenging the possibility of a sinless life but the idea that a person may be a in a state where it is impossible for them to sin any longer.
Millikan depends for his interpretation of Keswick teaching and its difference from Wesleyan teaching on a single source – a “series of notes prepared by Stuart Piggin in December 1989” with the rather loaded title A Terribly, Terribly Sad Business: Sinless Perfection in Australian Evangelicalism, 1938-43. (A reliable and well nuanced description of Keswick teaching is found in David Bebbington’s Holiness in Nineteenth Century England.) Piggin is a good historian, though his theological ability occasionally lets him down. I once heard him dismiss Charles Finney’s theology as problematic solely on the grounds that it was “Arminian.” This reflects his own Reformed theological position with its revulsion toward that system of theology once referred to by J. I. Packer as an “intellectual sin of infirmity.” (!) It would be more accurate however to speak of Finney’s theology as “Pelagian” since he denied the existence of inherited depravity and made perfection a simple matter of making the right choices. If this is “Arminianism” it certainly wasn’t Wesley’s Arminianism which affirmed the doctrine of depravity in very strong terms indeed. Whether drawn from Piggin or misread from him, Millikan characterises Wesleyan theology as teaching that there is no sin in believers (p.175). One could be forgiven for thinking this after reading some of Wesley’s earlier sermons influenced as they were by the “Zinzendorfian error” held by some of the London Moravians. But he very soon corrected this mistake and affirmed that, while perfection is possible in this life and the goal toward which every believer should strive, sin remains in the regenerate as something to be struggled against until it is finally rooted out (see for example his sermon On Sin in Believers)
In spite of these inaccuracies this is an important book that gives a salutary warning about how easily the highest religious ideals can become toxic. Sinless perfectionism does not appear to be any kind of threat in Evangelical or Pentecostal circles today. Nor do I think it was perfectionism as such that led to the spiritual abuse warned against here but a set of views still widely held among Pentecostals and Charismatics (and perhaps Evangelicals to a lesser extent). Some of these are identified in Millikan’s final set of conclusions. They include the untouchable status of church leaders who are understood to be anointed leaders who hear directly from God and whose decisions cannot be second-guessed by any kind of democratic process involving the laity.
"When the life of a group is dominated by the insights or “revelations” or “words of knowledge” or “prophecies” of one or a few people, and where these utterances are assigned a higher priority than the normal process of reading, discussion and reflection. This is by its nature dangerous. It denies those who do not have such “special gifts” the capacity to make the same level of decisions. Once such a division occurs within the life of a community, where a tiny minority acquires the unquestioned right to state the word of God, it puts the rest into a dependency relationship, which inevitably begins to cramp their growth to maturity. It also puts an excessive emphasis on the importance of special spiritual gifts." (p. 199)
There is also in such circles an unwillingness to submit theological insights to the wisdom of the ages and little sense of continuity with or accountability to the historic church and its great tradition. Intrusions into other people’s consciences and an attempt to control their responses along certain prescribed lines will always lead to an unhealthy kind of faith. Seeing the world as completely evil necessitating a withdrawal into the narrow confines of a supposedly pure community is a recipe for disaster. If one was to remove Lindsay Grant and Del Agnew’s quirky views on perfection from the equation and leave in these other features of unhealthy spirituality, the abuse would probably still have occurred. In any case such insights as Millikan makes throughout this book make it a valuable warning against extremism, in spite of its weaknesses in theological precision.
What follows are reviews of books I read in preparation for teaching an Intensive unit in April at Booth College called Doctrine of Sanctification: Biblical Perspectives.
Kent E. Brower and Andy Johnson, eds. Holiness and Ecclesiology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007) is a good collection of scholarly articles from Wesleyan theologians, though like all such anthologies the quality of the offerings varies somewhat. I had considered this as a text for the unit but thought the title indicated too narrow a focus. As it turns out it probably would have made a worthy textbook. The material is predominantly biblical theology, so there is little by way of confessional theology here. Those looking for uniquely Wesleyan insights into the doctrine of sanctification are not likely to find them here. It's a pity in a way that we are seeing Wesleyan theologians doing such fine scholarly work but not, at least not in this collection, doing much more than apologise for the inadequacies of their own tradition. Where is the creative articulation of Wesleyan theology that reads the Scriptures in a traditioned yet at the same time open-ended way that will advance the tradition? It has often been said that Wesleyan theology is less "systematic" and more "biblical." If that is the case why are the most fruitful and creative Wesleyan theologians all systematic and historical theologians (Maddox, Collins, et al?). Is there a biblical theologian in the Wesleyan tradition? Tell me if you have an answer to that question because I'm still looking for a good textbook for this course!
Stephen C. Barton, Holiness Past and Present (London: T & T Clark, 2003). OK I haven't read all of this book, only the sections on the biblical material. It is clearly however a great collection of essays that indicates just how fertile a field is the topic of holiness in religious studies. It revisits classic theoretical treatments such as Rudolf Otto's concept of "the numinous," deals well with the scriptural material including the recent re-examination of purity laws and their significance, has some good historical essays including David Bebbington on "Holiness in the Evangelical Tradition," and some interesting ethical essays that ground the consideration of holiness in concrete situations. The most interesting insight for me was what Barton calls the "Dislocation and Relocation of Holiness." It shouldn't surprise us that with the arrival of Jesus the meaning of holiness should undergo a revolutionary change. In the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, while there is direct continuity with Old Testament concepts of holiness there is also radical reinvention. For one thing the location of holiness is moved. “Holiness looks different now”; it looks like Jesus. In the holy character of Jesus there is a power present to make holy all who come within its influence. Craig Blomberg refers to this as “contagious holiness” and Kenneth Walters sees the heavenly realm encroaching upon the earthly realm in Jesus so that “where contact with God once meant destruction for any earthly being or object, contact with God in Christ now means sanctification and life.”
Consider here only two of the ways that the ritual impurity of the older code has been invested with an altogether new meaning in the teaching and actions of Jesus. The casting out of a legion of demons from the troubled man of Mark 5:1-20 “expresses something of the sanctifying presence of God in Jesus bringing a new sense of self, not only to the demonised man…but also – if only they would receive it – to a nation possessed by the demons of subjection to imperial Rome.” In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), “true holiness is shown to be a matter, not so much of separation from corpse impurity – the (no doubt legitimate) motivation of the priest and Levite in passing by on the other side…as of acting with compassion toward the poor.”
Though I have only really covered one of the four parts of this book, I look forward to returning to it for what I'm sure will be further worthwhile insights.
David Bebbinton, Holiness in Nineteenth Century England (Paternoster, 2007). Bebbington is perhaps the world’s leading historian of British Evangelicalism and the opportunity of engaging with his lectures on the forms of nineteenth-century Holiness teaching in England is simply too good an opportunity to miss. Though my primary interest in reading this book was in Methodist teaching, the other essays on Keswick, Anglo-Catholic and Reformed teaching provide a broader comparative context into which to place the Wesleyan brand of Holiness teaching. Highly recommended.
David Peterson, Possessed by God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001). This book is an excellent treatment of the New Testament material on sanctification and I used it as one of the texts for the unit. However, I do feel quite ambivalent about its use in that context. While it deals admirably with all of the key texts on sanctification, providing good exegetical studies along the way, it is marred by an apparent need to criticise (and often unfairly) those in the Wesleyan theological tradition. The author will often portray Wesleyans as holding to sinless perfectionism overlooking the nuances of perfectionist teaching within the tradition. Ironically his own findings in discussing certain passages are sometimes fully in line with Wesleyan views. The book is also a critique of the author's own Reformed tradition, at least its Puritan heritage which has placed great stress on holiness as a mark of the elect. The characteristic Puritan stress on "progressive sanctification" (mortification and vivification) the author sees as unhelpful because it places, he says, an unhelpful burden on believers and obscures the completed work of Christ in their lives. Since the New Testament is primarily concerned with the positional holiness of believers we should place the stress on the instantaneousness of sanctification not its progressive features. Christ's death secures believers as the holy ones of God, set apart as belonging to him. That is a completed action that cannot be taken away from or added to. That is all good so far as it goes but Peterson does not do justice to the frequently found imperatives within the New Testament to "perfect holiness in the fear of God," to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received," etc. Believers are "saints" yes, but saints "called to be holy." Holiness in the New Testament must be understood as holding the positional and the experiential together. This was something Calvin certainly understood and it is a pity that this particular Reformed theologian seems to have departed from that emphasis here. I wish there were a book that did as good a job as this at interpreting the New Testament material on sanctification without the need to engage in an unnecessary and often unfounded polemic against Wesleyan theology.
John Webster, Holiness (London: SCM Press, 2003). This is a book of considerable depth despite being only one hundred pages long. Systematic theologians have not always been strong on the doctrine of holiness so Webster's contribution is very welcome. This is "confessional" theology, confident in God's Trinitarian self-revelation. It bears the characteristically Reformed and Barthian emphasis on what is usually called "positonal holiness" and also shares Barth's nervousness about the piety of the sanctified. Though its dominant note is positional holiness it avoids any antimonian implication by stressing the genuine godliness of the elect. As well as covering the Holiness of God, the Holiness of the Church and the Holiness of the Believer, perhaps the most fascinating chapter is the first on the Holiness of Theology itself. It will need to be read slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully, but this book makes a great contribution to contemporary discussion on the doctrine of holiness and is highly recommended. Facebook users can also read my colleague Adam Couchman's review here.
Michael Lodhal and Thomas J. Oord, eds. Relational Holiness: Responding to the Call of Love (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 2005). This is a fairly lightweight book that is accurate in its central thesis that love is the organizing centre of the doctrine of holiness, but weak in that it does not provide a solid theological treatment of the topic. The stress on a Trinitarian view of holiness is welcome but not sufficiently developed here. The book is aimed at a general lay readership and is pitched reasonably well at that audience I suppose but both authors are capable of much more serious writing. It is a book typical of the crisis in the Wesleyan-Holiness churches over the doctrine of sanctification. Having given up on the simplistic formulas of nineteenth century second blessing formualtions of the teaching, no adequate substitute has yet been found. Much that is said here might be found in a book by an evangelical of any particular theological tradition or none. There are a few distinctively Wesleyan insights but the tradition still awaits a contemporary formulation of its core doctrine. The reading lists at the end of each chapter provide valuable clues for further reading. PS Does a book that is 140 pages long really need two forwards and two prefaces?
Kevin W. Mannoia and Don Thorsen, eds. The Holiness Manifesto (Grand Rapids: Eedrmans, 2008). I have only really dipped into a few of the essays here (those on specifically biblical themes) but thought I'd include it here as a significant new release in the field that will probably be worth revisiting. A more adequate review may follow a closer read.
An unusual Bond novel because written in the first person voice of a woman. Perhaps more than any other Bond novel this is nothing like the film of the same name. Bond only comes into the narrative in the final act to save the heroine from a nasty fate at the hands of two viscious gangsters holed up in a run down motel in the Adirondacks. The suspense builds well and it's quite a page turner. Hitchcock always wanted to make a Bond film and this would have been the one for him to do, with its American setting, creeping claustrophobia and damsel in distress. This Penguin series has a cool (though racy) set of retro covers that draw on elements of the story. My copy came from the local IGA store in Kingaroy, Qld, so you never know what little treasures you'll find among the supermarket novels.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The following story from USA Today announces a very cool and creative development from DC Comics:
"Flying defiantly into a digital world, DC Comics will launch a weekly series of superhero comic strips next month, printed on full-size newspaper pages like the old-fashioned Sunday funnies. The 12-week return to newsprint, called Wednesday Comics, makes its debut at comic-book stores July 8 and will offer 15 different stories for $3.99 in a broadsheet format, 14 inches by 20 inches. (New comic books are released across the USA on Wednesdays.) Creators include John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo on Superman, Brian Azzarello on Batman, Adam and Joe Kubert on Sgt. Rock, Paul Pope on Adam Strange, Dave Gibbons on Kamandi, Kyle Baker on Hawkman and a pairing of Neil Gaiman and Michael Allred on the obscure hero Metamorpho. All 12 weeks of the Superman strip will appear in USA TODAY as well, beginning July 8 with a full-page installment in the newspaper. The remaining 11 Superman strips will be available each Wednesday at usatoday.com. "There's a certain romance to the history of the big old Sunday funnies that I wanted to try to recapture in Wednesday Comics," says DC art director Mark Chiarello. "Why not dust off the format and have a little fun?"
You can see samples of the high quality art that will grace the format here
Posted by Glen O'Brien at 10:55 pm
Hulk 112 January 1969 "The Brute Battles On", with HULK fighting for his life on an alien planet (shades of Planet Hulk) with Stan Lee script and Herb Trimpe art. The cover is relatively flat, good gloss, indents, a couple of creases and some wear on the right hand edge. The staples are tight and the inside pages are all fine. The overall grade a solid Very Good- (VG-) I'll write up a review later.
Mark Twain once said that human beings have a lot to learn from the higher animals. Some of those things are perhaps expressed by Gary Kowalski’s description of his dog, Chinook.
"My dog has deep knowledge to impart. He makes friends easily and doesn’t hold a grudge. He enjoys simple pleasures and takes each day as it comes…he eats when he’s hungry and sleeps when he’s tired. He’s not hung up about sex…He never growls at the children or barks at his wife. So my dog is sort of guru. When I become too serious and preoccupied he reminds me of the importance of frolicking and play. When I get too wrapped up in abstractions and ideas, he reminds me of the importance of exercising and caring for the body. On his own canine level, he shows me that it might be possible to live without inner conflicts or neuroses: uncomplicated, genuine and glad to be alive."
Investigation of interspecies spirituality is new territory for most of us. But increasingly scientists, including psychologists, have begin to investigate such questions as whether animals dream, wonder, contemplate death, are conscious of themselves and others, have a sense of right and wrong, shame, loyalty etc. that go beyond the usual explanations of such things as purely instinctual responses devoid of what we humans call “reflection.”
The idea of progressive revelation maintains that, while God’s self revelation does not change, our human capacity to receive and understand that revelation does change. As the human race has learned to understand God more fully, it is claimed, such things as human sacrifice, polytheism, polygamy, racial genocide on religious grounds, etc. have been put aside as our apprehension of who God is and what he requires of us has enlarged. The Church once gave “biblical” defenses for the preservation of human slavery and the subjugation of women, arguments which no longer hold water today. Might it not be that the current discussion and theological reflection over the treatment of animals may be another stage in our understanding of God’s will and ways that necessitates a radical re-think on our part?
In 1988, the World Council of Churches, commissioned a theological consultation which issued recommendations concerning the church’s failure to teach respect for animals. “Freedom [from oppression and for life with God] should not be so limited [to humans] because other creatures, both species and individuals, deserve to live in and for themselves and for God. Therefore we call on all Christians as well as other people of good will to work toward the liberation of life, all life.”
Of course, a doctrine of “progressive revelation, whilst legitimate in the main, often betrays a “natural theology” bias that does not sit well with those who hold that Christianity is a “revealed” religion, and who affirm more classical views of biblical authority and direct inspiration. R. J. Hyland speaks for a progressive revelation stance when he maintains that God never condoned animal sacrifice but that “biblical writers wished to justify their practice by projecting their own violent nature onto God.”
If, on the other hand, as the classical tradition maintains, animal sacrifice was a practice mandated by God in the Old Testament, then the killing of animals per se cannot be wrong. Linzey places a more positive spin on animal sacrifice than does his fellow animal rights theologian, Hyland, claiming that animal sacrifice was viewed by those who practiced it, not simply as the destruction of life, but as the returning to the Creator that which was God’s gift. For God to receive the gift, it must have been assumed that the life of the animal survived beyond death. Thus, sacrifice affirmed the value of the life taken.
In Hinduism, a religion which now frowns on the unnecessary destruction of animals, animal sacrifice was originally widely practiced and was a key feature in the power of the priesthood over the devotees. Only the priest could offer the required sacrifices that would appease the gods. A remarkable shake up occurred in Hinduism when teachers such as Buddha and Mahavira, denounced the sacrifice of animals, in part as a protest against the Brahmin priests’ monopoly on religious power.
In a somewhat similar way, the Hebrew prophets of the same era, though not denouncing animal sacrifice as such, or for quite the same reasons as the Buddha, attacked the priestly system as corrupt and the sacrifices as useless if not accompanied by genuine heart religion. God would not accept the sacrifices of animals unaccompanied by a sacrifice of the heart. Such sacrifices were an abomination to him. Of course, in Jesus, the final sacrifice for sin has made the sacrifice of animals no longer necessary. A new covenant has been established, the final outcome of which is yet to be seen, in a new heaven and a new earth, spoken of by the prophets, in which “they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain (Isaiah 11:9).” Whether or not animals have souls, as creatures of God, they are deserving of respect. All actions toward them must surely be at least informed by the holy mountain foreseen by Isaiah.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Apologies to the several people who recently commented on this blog and waited in vain for their comments to be authorised. I had trouble with Google recognising my username after an old email address became defunct. (It's also partly for this reason that I have not posted here for many months.) I hope to get back here more often from here on in and I do appreciate all my readers. Thanks for your patience.
Posted by Glen O'Brien at 6:49 pm