Lutheran Heritage Lecture

On Tuesday, February 7, 2017 Dr. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson gave a lecture on Martin Luther’s definitions of Law and Gospel. She began each section of her speech with a misconception about Law and Gospel and then continued to explain what was wrong with it. She concluded each section by explaining the way that the Law and Gospel should be viewed. The first misconception was that the Old Testament is all law and the New Testament is all gospel. Dr. Wilson explained that there is Law and Gospel in both portions of the Bible. The main correct point that she emphasized in this portion was that “The law is what God commands. The gospel is what God gives.” The next incorrect idea that she addressed was once people have the gospel, they can get rid of the law. Dr. Wilson explained that this is a very selfish way to view Law and Gospel. The Law and Gospel are all about Jesus, not about the person receiving it. The third and final fallacy is that God the Father was very angry at creation, Jesus went down and saved the earth, and that act moved God the Father very deeply and so he forgave us. She explained that this was wrong because God has loved us even before humans loved him. His wrath is a facet of how he shows his love because it directs us towards him. In his law, God commands us to forgive one another. Dr. Wilson argued that to forgive is to begin working on repairing the rupture in creation that has been caused by sin.

The message of following Jesus’ example is a concept that we are working on this semester in honors. We are learning about hearing the voices of marginalized people and how to help them in the best way possible. By listening to people on the margins of society, we are reflecting God’s love to the world. A portion of the second section that Dr. Wilson mentioned was that God’s limitless love flows into us and is given to us freely. In turn, we cannot help but let that love continue flowing into our everyday lives and into our service to others.

I really enjoyed Dr. Wilson’s lecture. It was interesting and well researched. She was able to convey many core themes of the Lutheran faith in a concise format that was easy to understand and listen to. The key points that I have come away with from this lecture are the differences between Law and Gospel, the connecting point between Law and Gospel(Christ!), and the importance of forgiveness.

Spoon River

Spoon River was a musical production directed by Kate Sandvik, a CSP student. Sandvik used the poems from Spoon River Anthology and adapted them into her production of Spoon River. The musical features a girl attending the funeral of her grandfather. As she remains in the cemetery after the burial to reflect, the people that already rest in the cemetery rise and share their life experiences with her. They give her insight on the past inhabitants of Spoon River and allow her to share in small snippets of their lives that they share.

In Honors, we have learned about how people know things. Some people gain insight from others sharing their experiences. The girl in Spoon River is allowed to experience many things through the townspeople that she never would have been able to otherwise. She learns about life and death, hopes and dashed dreams, and love and despair. She uses history as way of learning more about the human experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed the production. Spoon River expanded my knowledge and what I typically think of when I think of musicals. The monologues were all connected. Some were directly related and others were only connected by the fact that the young girl was always the targeted audience of the story. Hearing the different lives and what the people deemed as the most worthy of being told allowed me to reflect on my own life. It let me begin thinking about what I deem most important and if I were to die, what I would want to pass on to someone else. This has helped me become more focused on my goals for my life and become more aware of what I want to accomplish and what I want to define me.

The Third Peacock Review

Introduction

The Third Peacock is Robert Capon’s attempt to represent the mystery of theodicy. He addresses what he believes to be the reason for evil, and what God does(or doesn’t do) about it. His views allow for a fresh window to peer through when looking at this mystery. He conveys his thoughts without pressing to say that his views are the absolute answer. This allows the reader to implement some critical thinking and to develop theories of their own.

Framing

Robert Farrar Capon is a self-proclaimed dogmatic theologian who has had approximately thirty years of experience. In The Third Peacock, Capon explores theodicy and presents his views of how the subject should be framed. Drawing from his many years of experience, Capon suggests new ways to go about pondering this mystery of evil. His innovative metaphors and analogies keep the reader engaged throughout the many twists and turns to get to the truth.

Content and Methodology

Capon begins with creation to address theodicy. He explains why God created the world and everything in it. It is because God delights in being. This is how Capon begins reframing the question of “Why isn’t God doing anything?” God created beings because he delights in them. He continues to sustain creation because he continues to delight in it. Part of God’s delight in being is freedom. With freedom, creation has the ability to do evil. This is Capon’s first point he stressed as to why “God is still firmly on the hook”(180).

Since this is the beginning to Capon’s wild theodicy ride, the middle portion consists of him trying to get to “the heart of the problem”(192). Capon uses the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert to show that some things are not inherently evil.  Capon reasoned that all of the offers that Satan tempted Jesus with made sense at that point in time. Jesus didn’t do any of them to show that God is a God of being, not doing. “The great, even well-meaning challenge to the hands-off policy comes and goes, and God still insists on playing the invisible man, on running the world without running it at all”(194). Capon insists that God is not a God of doing, which means humans should stop expecting to see him do a marvelous show of power. This is how Capon continues to reframe how people view theodicy. Capon suggests that humans “simply assume his power and then try and see its relationship to the radical freedom of the things God holds in being”(197).

Finally Capon suggests God prefers to just be there for his creation. Often times, when a person is going through a rough time in their life, it helps to just have someone be there. The person can’t do anything to lessen the pain, but their presence helps. That is how Capon frames God’s interactions with his creation. In a world full of bad things, “his(God’s) help consists in his continuous presence in all victims”(221). God’s presence is not a thing to be scoffed at. His presence can offer comfort in the times of mourning and in times of stress. “Love is as strong as death…there are no waters that can drown the loving of the Word”(222). God understands human feelings. Jesus was fully human and fully God and he had to suffer through the grief of losing a friend and he had to suffer through his crucifixion. God meets us in our suffering; he meets us on the cross.

Analysis in context to Sandy Hook

The Newtown shooting, which took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, resulted in the death of 26 people. Shootings are an evil in the world that can happen anywhere for any reason. The freedom the shooter had to control his actions is evident because he was created by God with that freedom. However, as Capon stated, “God may be the cause of its being, but he is, for the most part, only the spectator of its actions”(188). Adam Lanza(the shooter) was God’s creation, but he was responsible for what he did with the freedom gifted to him. He chose to abuse that freedom. God, following the “hands-off policy”(194) as Capon put it, did not do anything to stop the violent act.

What God did in the aftermath, though, showed his dedication to being. His presence was there for the victims and their families to take comfort in. 20 elementary school children were killed that day. The community has held interfaith ceremonies for the community to remember the victims. This turn towards God and allowing his presence to be a comfort is an example of how just knowing that God is present can be helpful. Capon describe God as saying, “You will meet me in the Passion – in the heart of badness where I have always been”(224). God inhabits the darkest of dark places, and that includes a community that loses 26 people in a mass shooting. He draws the broken and hurting into his embrace and stays with them through the darkness.

Conclusion

Capon addresses theodicy in The Third Peacock with very good insights into the character of God. He shifts the normal perceptions of God to a frame that shows God’s love for creation and the freedom that beings have. This intense love for creation allows freedom, but freedom allows evil into the mix. God’s love means that he will continually be there for his creation, but he will not interfere with the freedom it has. And sometimes, that presence is more meaningful than a huge act of grandeur.

Martin Luther Convocation

Today’s convocation was centered around the Martin Luther exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The presenter had a slideshow containing pictures of the different pieces on display. He gave interesting stories about the various pieces, which would have been very mundane, old accessories without the history attached. An example of such a piece is the golden ring found on the site of Martin Luther’s house in Wittenberg. The ring was found where the toilet of the house would have been. The story that was attached to this piece was that Luther threw it in the toilet, because it was a gift to his wife from another man. When Luther threw the ring away, he sent a letter to the other man saying that his wife had lost the ring and that the man should not send such expensive gifts. This story, and others like it allow for insights into the character of Martin Luther.

Part of today’s lecture included a history on the ninety-five theses and how they affected the society of Luther’s time. Since Luther proclaimed that a person can not buy their way into heaven, or in any way earn it, people stopped buying indulgences. However, the people used this reasoning to stop caring for the poor, since it wouldn’t get them any closer to heaven. This sudden lack of charity created cause for one of the first forms of welfare to be formed. In this way, people used logic as a way of knowing and a way to get out of being generous.

I found today’s lecture to be very interesting. I am excited to go to this exhibit in a couple weeks and to be able to see some of these historic pieces in person. For me, I would not have been interested in many of the pieces, simply because I am not a huge fan of studying history. However, knowing the quirky little stories behind things, such as the ring, allows me to look through a window into Luther’s world. It makes Luther seem more human, rather than super-Christian, which is neat.

Hunting the Divine Fox Book Review

 

Introduction

Robert Capon creates a multitude of new perspectives and frames to view the Word of God through in Hunting the Divine Fox. He approaches topics such as the the will of God for humans and how people try to comprehend God. These new perspectives create interesting topics for Christians to ponder and apply to their lives.

Framing

Hunting the Divine Fox, by Robert Farrar Capon, explores how Christians interpret the word of God and how they live in the Mystery it creates. Capon was a Christian author who served as an American Episcopal Priest for about 30 years. He wrote a variety of theological books throughout his lifetime, totaling twenty books. His style of writing in Hunting the Divine Fox is very casual, making it easy to read for people who have not studied theology before. Capon’s experience in writing and in church-work gave him a firm foundation to base his thoughts on in this book.

Content and Methodology

Capon attempts to address several key theological topics, including how humans try to comprehend God, how the Bible describes God, God’s will for humans, and what the purpose of the church is. Capon uses many analogies in his writing to get his point across in an understandable way. He begins his book with a story concerning an oyster trying to figure out what a ballerina is using its universe of knowledge. This little oyster can never truly comprehend the complexities of a ballerina because the only comparison it has is that ballerinas and starfish move. This illustrates how limited human knowledge is and how inadequate any comparisons to God are. He continues in his quest for clarity by examining how best to interpret the Bible. He compares straight language and images to bent language and images. Straight language describes an object in a literal way. Bent language is when metaphors and comparisons are made to describe an object. Capon states that “The Bible, at its deepest levels, is actually a tissue of images. The Word of God, when God most reveals himself, speaks with a bent tongue” (267).  Capon recognizes that we mostly learn of God through bent language because there are no human ways to accurately, literally describe the being of God. Capon uses a plaza in the middle of several streets to describe how an analogy or bent image can be interpreted in different ways. He also applies the plaza scenario to the meaning of the word “will.” Capon shows the ways “will” can be interpreted. These interpretations range from desire to request to command. Capon chose to frame the will of God within the context of desire, passion, and choice. He compares it to the “longing of a lover for what the beloved is” (273). Capon next reveals his views of the church and its purpose on earth. Capon argues that the church has turned from being a place for sinners to being a place where only the elite can worship. He believes religion has become focused on transactions and that it has lost the fact that the Mystery is non-transactional and constant.

Analysis

Capon uses an abundance of allegories and metaphors to create a rich reading experience for the audience. His first chapter is based entirely on an analogy concerning an oyster, rock, starfish, and ballerina. However silly this fable is, it truly encapsulates the human experience of trying to figure out God. “The way you think about things will never be exactly the same as the way they are” (245). As humans experience life, their brains try to create a logical way to perceive the environment. As humans explore the mystery of God, their brains try to use logical, human terms to describe God. This can lead to very vague descriptions and inadequate understanding. This is because humans have never actually experienced God face-to-face. There is no way for an oyster to understand a ballerina and no way for humans to understand God.

As Capon used an analogy to explain the human experience of trying to understand God, he goes on to explain that the majority of how we describe God is through bent language. God is an incomprehensible deity and to even begin to touch the essence of what he is is an enormous task. Humans use metaphors such as describing parts of the Trinity as the Father and the Son. This phrasing should not be misunderstood to mean that one part of the Trinity is superior to another. Capon chooses to view it as an example of how “Love between persons can be equal without having to be the same” (268). This is an example of how the metaphors used to describe God can be viewed in different ways and that the person examining the language should be careful with which path they take.

God’s will is often viewed as a singular list of things God has assigned a person to do. It is viewed as commanding instead of loving. Capon chooses to shift the commanding view of God’s will to the loving, passionate view of it. “It is a desire not for a performance but for a person; a wish not that the beloved will be obedient but that she will be herself” (273). This loving, personal view of God is not often pictured when hearing “Thy will be done.” Capon describes this will of God to be encouraging of a person’s individuality. God uses each person’s unique talents, interests, and gifts to do His purpose.

Finally, Capon emphasizes how the church has gone down a road that values transactions more than the free grace of God. These transactions can lead to people feeling inadequate to be a part of the church because they feel they have nothing to offer. However, this is not a feeling that the church should be perpetuating. The church is made up of sinners and people should not be able to tell other people that their sin is worse because it’s different. “My thesis is that transactional views of Christianity have caused more problems than we suspect, and that if we can manage to correct them, a lot of heretofore unresolvable conflicts may well just disappear” (327). One of these problems is the feeling of exclusion some people feel when they try to join the church. The church can fix this problem by shifting its focus from morals and transactions to grace and accepting sinners with open arms.

Conclusion

In Hunting the Divine Fox, Capon attempts to address several weighty theological issues. Some are more successfully addressed, while others are left on questionable terms. Either way, it can be concluded that Capon creates thoughtful arguments that leave impressions on its readers. Capon created new perspectives on traditional views that many Christians hold and that is worth exploring more.

Bartling Lecture 2016

Frank M. White was the presenter for the 2016 Bartling Lecture. He is the author of the book They Played for the Love of the Game. White enjoyed playing baseball as a child and was unaware that his father played baseball for a team during the time that baseball was segregated. When White learned about this side of his father, it spiked his interest in  learning more about that era in baseball. White has since gathered information on various colored teams that were from Minnesota and is sharing it in his lectures. He listed several teams, such as the Saint Paul Colored Gophers, and he shared several players. The majority of the players were unknown to many people listening to the lecture. White wants to share their stories out of respect for them.

White has gathered many stories and pictures from around the 1920s. He has talked to many people and presented their accounts during presentations. Through gathering this information, his world view has shifted. He said that when he was around college-aged that he believed the world was all about him. He has since been surrounded by people with different experiences and has learned that the world is not all about him. This change in mindset would influence how he perceives other people and knowledge that he gathers.

I found this lecture to be very informative. It showed me the importance of learning about our past and sharing it with others. When we look back, we have the opportunity to learn from others mistakes. We have the chance to move forward. I had always known that this was a way history could help us, but it never truly connected in my brain until listening to White speak today. He said throughout the presentation that he was sharing the stories of segregated baseball teams so that we could move away from that state-of-mind. This helped clarify the use of history as a lesson in what to do/not to do because White was speaking from the perspective of someone that was closely associated with the topic.

Heginbotham Lecture 2016

 

Kao Kalia Yang began her lecture with the thing that comes most naturally to her, storytelling. She explained how losing her grandmother and learning how to express herself led her to a career in writing. Her first book, The Late Homecomer, was written in a way that the reader would fall in love with her grandmother and then at the end feel her tears as her grandmother passed away. Yang described how loss and struggles helped inspire her next book, The Song Poet, which she wrote following a miscarriage. She used this book as an expression of her grief and also as a tribute to the second album her father never got to create. As she opened the floor for questions, the topics ranged from being a regional writer to the gap between generations of Hmong people. She described the heaviness in her heart when she sees young Hmong people unsure of where they fit into the world. She told of how she only send books to publishers when they allow her to grow in knowledge of herself or of others’ views. She said that she uses her writing to “reckon with reality.” She encouraged the audience to give their all daily and to build hope. Her last, stressed point was that she listens. She listens because words fail to help and listening is sometimes all a person can do.

Yang’s lecture fits into the emotional and artistic ways of knowing. She allows her feelings to flow freely from her heart to the page. She uses writing as a way to convey her honest emotions about the events that happen in her life. She compared herself to an artist when she talked about building connections and relationships with people. Without interpersonal connections, an artist’s work would never gain momentum, which is true about books too. The fact that people are the deciding factor of a book’s popularity means that for a book to grow in status, it must touch the reader. Reading can help people process their feelings and grow in their ways of knowing. Yang’s writings allow for personal growth through introspection and lyrical or rhythmic expression of her world view. They also allow the reader to reflect and grow in their own views.

I found Yang’s lecture very inspiring. She was very raw and honest with the audience, which can be lost when the speech is prewritten. Her statement about what a leader is(it was along the lines of: A leader is someone who lives their life that people will voluntarily follow.) was really impactful to me. In the past, I have been pressured to be a “good leader” and asked to fulfill leadership positions. I never really understood what a good leader was. I knew when a person was a good leader, but I could not pin down what the common quality between all of the great leaders I had known was. Yang explained what I could not. That a leader sets an example just by living their life to the best of their abilities. Leaders give their all to life and inspire others. This realization is one that I know I will remember for years and maybe for life.

Conversation Convocation

Dr. Chatman, Prof. Woodard, Danielle Tietjen, and Abdul Wright discussed the importance of connections in relation to communication. Dr. Chatman emphasized the vitality of creating connections with others and growing in those relationships. Professor Woodard broached the topic of conversation. He pointed out that conversation without technology being present as a barrier is important. Conversation with other people and with ourselves is able to flow freely without the distraction of a technological device. It helps us to discover ourselves and build relationships with fellow people. Danielle Tietjen stressed that to grow, people need to be open to experiencing new cultures and expanding their worldview. She also pointed out that the risk of doing this is leaving a comfort zone and losing things that hold people back from seeing other people. Abdul Wright highlighted the fact that everyone comes from a different background and that those differences can help people make an impact in the world.

 

All of the speakers elaborated on different reasons and ways that conversation and empathizing with others is important. When applied to the ways of knowing, this could fall under the emotional track of knowledge. Being able to connect to other human beings on a deep level can allow people to learn more about themselves and how others view the world. This connection is formed through face-to-face conversation and being outside of the comfort zone of communicating through technology. Being able to express how a person feels and why they feel that way is an integral part of conversation. Conversation forces people to not filter, spell check, or edit what they are wanting to talk about. This raw communication can lead to the other person feeling empathetic towards the other one and that leads to a better understanding of the world and other cultures.

 

I found the convocation to be very interesting. It was a good reminder to put down the phones and just allow connections with others to grow through talking. I often find myself absentmindedly checking my phone mid-conversation with people and then getting distracted from the moment. Phones are also a comfort zone for most people, myself included. Being challenged to put away the phone is a good thing because some of the most meaningful discussions take place in a phone free zone.