Daily thoughts on aesthetics and theology, and the entire world in between.

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The aesthetics of couples

Every marriage is a living picture, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

Which means it is beyond words.

It is a feel. It is an aura unique to the man and the woman that has become one flesh.

There is such a thing as an aesthetics of couples.

We are talking about much more than a decorative picture. The aesthetics of couples is a powerful principle. It is the very key to replenishing the earth, and having dominion over it. We can only imagine what the beauty of an unfallen Adam and Eve would have been.

But that is why Christ and the Church, ultimately, will be a marriage. It will mean rulership of the cosmos.

But today we see many small microcosms of this picture. We see it in every marriage, for better, or for ill, clearly, or weakly. When a man leaves father and mother and cleaves unto his wife, that one flesh emits a cosmos-shaping power, however small that cosmos may be.

Think about all the marriages you know. Take a tally. Consider the influence of each, the legacy of each, the fruits borne, the lives shaped. Or the damages done.


Genesis 1.26-28 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominionover the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 2.24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto hiswife: and they shall be one flesh.

Ephesians 5.31-32 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Peking duck and seeing and tasting

You first order the duck; usually a half or a whole. Order the whole if your party is more than 2.

At a better than average restaurant, the chef wheels the roasted whole duck to your table and carves it in front of you. He is usually accompanied by a small troupe of young waitresses, placing dishes of the crispy pieces on the table.

You then wrap the pieces into a doughy crepe, along with black bean paste, scallions, and a variety of other fresh condiments.

Peking Duck.

And for any civilized Chinese meal, this would just be one of several dishes you must of course order. But WAIT!

Would you like the chef to make a soup for you from the remains of the duck? Why yes! Usually the soup comes last; no extra charge.

Chinese food is an exercise in tasting and seeing.

Not only tasting -- which is enough in a pinch -- but tasting and seeing. I would say it is a peculiar feature of many of the cuisines of the world. Tasting and seeing.

You can taste very quickly. But to taste and see, you'll need to slow down. The meal cannot be a quick pit-stop you make while on your way to something else.

The meal is the something else.

The whole experience must be played out over a good stretch of time if you are to get your fill of tasting and seeing.

American cuisine -- and usually you don't come across the words "American" and "cuisine" side-by-side -- American cuisine is somewhat weak on the seeing part. That's because we always think we've got other places to go and other people to see.

This affects how we understand this:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.

This sentence was not written by an American, but by someone from one of those cultures with a cuisine.


Psalm 34.8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Who says God is fair?

Where do we get this idea?

Consider one of the most extraordinary passages of the Bible; it is about Isaac the son of Abraham:

And the man became great, and he became continually greater, until he was very great.

Well, I guess Isaac became great.

We shouldn't begrudge him this, should we? Most likely Isaac deserved to be great, didn't he? He must have lived a righteous life; he must have worked hard for his greatness; he must have been an example and a leader in his community ... and all the rest of what we think it takes to become a great person.

But wait...

This passage about how Isaac was so great, greater, very great -- just Tony-the-Tiger GRRRRREAT! ... comes right after he tells a lie about his wife.

In the true tradition of his father Abraham -- who also was a great man; after all, Abraham is the father of all those of faith -- in the true tradition of his father Abraham, Isaac tries to pass Rebecca off as his own sister.

This just so as to protect his own great hide. Truly an act of greatness. And then, right after this noble act:

And the man became great, and he became continually greater, until he was very great.

And what does the rest of that chapter say about Isaac?

It seems that all Isaac did was dig wells. Wells upon wells. That's all he seems to have done. And make no mistake: Isaac didn't do the digging; his servants did it.

And then the chapter concludes by saying that Isaac and his (ahem) wife Rebecca had a real problem with one of their sons, a guy named Esau ...

That's it. That's the chapter. But Isaac was one of the greatest men in the Holy Scriptures.

Who says God is fair? On the evidence of Genesis chapter 26, He is not.

We insist on a fair God because we insist on the myth of a level playing field. You see, if the playing field is level, then scrubs like you and me can have a chance in life. If the playing field is level, then it's UP TO ME to make myself a success.

We like that. We just want God to be a benevolent umpire on the sidelines, making sure that everything is FAIR.

We want God to be fair because we really don't want Him to interfere with our own efforts at success ... even with our own efforts at holiness. It is as if we are saying to God:

"Now you just stay over there and watch us; if the other guy cheats, make sure you throw the flag and penalize him ...! Just be fair!"

But God is not the God of FAIR.

God is the God of GRACE.

And because we never know how His grace will play out ...

God is a God to be FEARED.


Isaac lying about his wife: Genesis 26.6-11

Genesis 26.13 And the man became great, and he became continually greater, until he was very great.

Isaac's people digging wells: Genesis 26.15, 18,19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 36

Genesis 26.34-35 And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: Which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah.

Abraham lying about his wife: Genesis 12.11-13

Abraham lies again about his wife: Genesis 20.2

Romans 5.16
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring-not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

The normal scattering of seeds

The sower sows the word; this is what the Scripture says.

But we often think of this parable as only describing the Word of the initial Gospel, and the fruit that results as those who receive the Gospel. In other words, we think the parable of the sower is "only" a picture of evangelism.

Until we ourselves are scattered.

Then it occurs to us that scattering not only applies to the word of the Gospel; it also applies to those who have the Word of the Gospel in them.

Those who receive the Gospel themselves become bearers of the seed of the Word.

And in this life, it is normal for seeds to be scattered:

For everything there is a season ... a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain ...

The stones of the house of God are not only to be built together, and built up; seasons will come when those stones need to be scattered ... so that more stones might be built up.

It is a historical fact that whenever the people of God were scattered, the Word also scattered, and the Church ultimately advanced.

We assume otherwise: We think of ourselves as the fruit of the seed that was sown, not as the seeds themselves. After all, the seed of the Word bore us. We simply want to grow in place. We want to flourish where we are planted. Be comfortable. Grow our gardens. Coast to retirement and beyond. Well, these are all normal expectations.

But scattering is also normal.


Mark 4.3 "Listen! A sower went out to sow ...

Ecclesiastes 3.1 ..., 5 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven ... a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing ...

1 Peter 2.5 ... you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Zechariah 13.7-9 "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me," declares the Lord of hosts. "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones. "In the whole land, declares the Lord , two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. "And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'They are my people'; and they will say, 'The Lord is my God.'"

On art and being proportional

If the Christian life is nothing more than just a journey through a fallen world, what is the role of art, and art-making, while on this journey?

If we are not to assign eternal meaning to the temporary furnishings of this world, what kind of meaning should we assign to art, and to art-making?

And if for this journey we are only to bring a little money for our needs, and even a sword or two for our security -- but if these bare essentials are "enough" -- how do we account for art?

After all, isn't art the emblem of a life that is furnished with more than just the bare essentials?

During the Reformation, in response to the excessive use of objects of art in the Roman Church, John Calvin not only rejected art-forms of any kind as unbiblical, he even said this: “we must hold it as a first principle, that as often as any form is assigned to God, his glory is corrupted by an impious lie.”

This seems extreme to our ears.

ecent commentaries on the arts have been more accommodating. But Calvin's "anti-aestheticism" persists in overall Protestant understandings of the Bible.

I don't think we should see this cautionary view of art as merely some form of Protestant prudishness. Jesus was very clear that our time here is only for "a little while." Paul also spoke of urgency: the time is short ... if you are sad, don't be too sad; if you are happy, don't be too happy; if you buy something, remember it is not really yours. Don't even think of marriage as the be-all and end-all of contentment.

In all of this, where is art and art-making?

I think one answer is proportions.

Look at the creation of which we are a part. Everything fits together with every other thing so perfectly -- from sub-atomic particles to galaxies -- everything fits together so perfectly it is beyond comprehension. And this is in a fallen nature. What would a restored nature -- an unfallen nature -- be like? It would be all new beyond comprehension.

And who or what has Christ's work already made new?

Us. "Behold if any man is in Christ, there is a new creation..."

So art begins with proportional beauty in who we are and in what we do.

The art of being practical is the art of being proportional, in right relation to all else, even if everything else still bears the taint of the fall.

A being that is proportional in who he is and in what he makes. I think a Christian understanding of art-making begins with this, at least for this little while.


John 16.16 "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me."

Luke 22.38 The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied.

1 Corinthians 7.29-31 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

2 Corinthians 5.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), I.xi.1, 91.

Bonhoeffer on being practical

As I've been saying here and here, Jesus was a realist. Which is to say, God is practical.

Yes, we are on a journey to eternity. But it is a journey to eternity. This means you can't expect the rewards of eternity to be available now.

As for now, as for this journey, take along some money if you can; sell a thing or two to buy a thing or two. Be sensible with the sense God gave you, and protect yourselves from obvious danger.

Don't look at life through rose-colored glasses; which is to say, don't think of the Gospel as imbuing everything in this life with the value of eternal life. As a matter of fact, the Gospel is what makes clear that nothing in this life equals the joy of eternal life.

That there is no eternal joy here is the Good News, not the bad news.

Happy is the person who does not try to squeeze the eternal weight of joy out of every two-pound piece of land, or bank account, or house, or career, or relationship, or whatever, this life offers.

Here is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it:

... wherever it is recognized that the power of death is illumined by the miracle of the resurrection and of the new life, there no eternities are demanded of life, but one takes of life what it offers, not all or nothing, but good and evil, the important and the unimportant, joy and sorrow; one neither clings convulsively to life nor casts it frivolously away. One is content with the allotted span and one does not invest earthly things with the title of eternity; one allows to death the limited rights which it still possesses. It is from beyond death that one expects the coming of the new man and of the new world, from the power by which death has been vanquished...

So take along a sword or two. Oh, you already have two swords? That's enough ...


D. Bonhoeffer, Ethics, quoted by Richard John Neuhaus in First Things, No. 163, May, 2006, p64. (Neuhaus does not give the pagination in Ethics).

Luke 22.35-39a And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. And he came out, and went, as he was wont ...

For the things concerning me have an end

And right in the middle of this curious conversation, Jesus said: "For the things concerning me have an end."

What does this mean?

The conversation, again, involved Jesus telling his disciples they should sell some garments to buy swords. This is different counsel than when he sent them out before, telling them to not take any provisions. But now, before he was to be crucified, it seems he wanted them to look out for themselves a little by buying a few swords, and also to take along some money. Why the change?

And then: "For the things concerning me have an end."

Does this mean that the things prophesied about his earthly ministry in the Old Testament have a finite end at the time of his death and resurrection? If so, how does it shed light on the need to buy swords? Certainly Jesus' own actions a few verses later, when he healed his attacker's ear and told his disciples to put away their swords, do not support this view.

After all, "the things concerning me have an end" gives us no warrant to say that it only refers to the things at the end of the first advent. Many things concerning Christ are applicable throughout the church age.

I think it means we need to take a few things along -- in other words, to be prepared to live in this vale of tears in a reasonable, practical manner -- throughout the church age ... until all that has been prophesied about the Christ has been fulfilled.

But Jesus also underlines to not go overboard. Don't make the things you take along become the be-all and end-all of your journey -- as if you've forgotten you're on a journey, and have ended up parked in one place just accruing things.

Two swords on hand? Ah well, that's enough. And he moved on ...


Luke 22.35-38 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here [are] two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. And he came out, and went, as he was wont

Luke 22.50-51 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.

1 Timothy 6.7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

Jesus on being practical

Luke's account of the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion is filled with memorable moments: Peter's denial, Judas' betrayal, Jesus before Pilate, and so on. But often glossed over is a curious little conversation in the midst of these events:

Jesus told his disciples, in effect: maybe it's good that you buy a few swords.

Jesus said, "When I sent you out earlier you didn't have to worry about material needs, but now take money and other needs. Sell a garment to buy swords." When His disciples responded, "we've got two swords here with us." Jesus answered, "that's enough."

What is this all about?

A few verses later, a disciple used one of those swords to cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest; this was when they came to take Him away. But Jesus healed the ear and said, "No more of this!"

So certainly Jesus didn't need the swords He told his disciples to take along.

What is this all about?

The best I can figure is that Jesus recognized the practicalities of life when His physical presence will no longer be with them. The disciples will need to concern themselves about provisions, even to look out for their safety, by non-miraculous means. By means that the world in general would think are not extraordinary.

Jesus was being practical.

But it wasn't a well-conceived, well-strategized practicality. It's not as if He said, "Look, make sure you file your taxes quarterly to maximize what you keep for yourselves ... look for all the loopholes." Or something to that effect.

No. It was almost as if He mentioned the practical considerations half-heartedly: Take along some swords ... oh you've got two? ... that's enough..."

(I'm just trying to get a sense of the human-ness of the man Jesus Christ).

We often assume that the New Testament is all about miracles. But there is a real day-to-day, real-life feel about them that make what they report that much more believable.

C.S. Lewis said something to the effect that the gospels are too clumsy -- they sound too real -- to be well-crafted myths.

Even Jesus the Man, who knew what was going to happen, said ... well, take along a sword or two, and bring some cash. But He said it in such a way that the practical ought never to take precedence over how the will of God will be played out in any event.

But bring along some cash.


Luke 22.35-38 Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied.

Luke 22.50-51 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.

Nature and agreement

But getting a group of peers to agree with you is not the ultimate proof of truth.

The ultimate proof of truth has more to do with just how large that group of peers is. Let me explain.

Originally, peer review implied that the peers who reviewed your proposal represented a large body of true knowledge. Through much study over many years, they profoundly understood how nature worked. They are then qualified to assess whether your new explanation of nature fits with the overall pattern of truth.

The scope of nature and how it functions: this is what provided the guidelines to evaluate new claims to knowledge. That is how large the domain is that is (or should be) represented by expert "peers."

A problem in academia -- and in our contemporary society as a whole -- is this dubious idea: if you can't get a large group of your peers to agree with you, invent a "sub-specialty." In other words, reduce the number of peers who actually understand you -- all the way down to the number of peers who already agree with you.

When this happens, what is evaluated -- and accepted -- is no longer true knowledge, but whether or not what you say fits a cultural paradigm held by the small group.

I am reminded of when Jesus was challenged to His claims of truth. He said that if men did not acknowledge Him as the King of Kings, even the stones will rise up to attest to who He is.

That is peer review of from the largest group of peers possible. Nature itself always attests to the Truth.


Luke 19.36-40 And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed [be] the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

The beauty of peer review

If you want to publish an academic paper, it must pass muster with peer review. This is when an editor sends your paper to several (usually anonymous) readers in the field, and they give it a thumbs up or down.

For those who have gone through this nerve-wracking process, beauty is probably the farthest thing from their minds.

But the roots of peer review are in beauty.

This is because peer review is rooted in the idea of harmonious proportions, which is the oldest and longest-standing theory of beauty in Western history.

In other words, your proposed paper must contain new knowledge that is in harmony with, and in proportion to, the known body of knowledge in your field. And this fact has to be attested to by your peers, not just by you.

It is no accident that bodies of knowledge are called BODIES of knowledge. They are bodies of knowledge because there is a proportion, a rightness, a balance ... there is beauty to how all parts of that body fit together into a conceptual whole.

Either your contribution fits in, or it doesn't.
And it's not up to you to say.

This is because beauty, after all, is not in the eye of the beholder. If something is truly beautiful, a
community of people must agree that it is.


Peer review is the academic parallel to the agreement of the saints in church life.

The Body of Christ can only function on healthy peer review.

Otherwise there is no community. In fact you may end up with no-Body at all.

At least the beauty will have gone out of it.


New Testament terms associated with the above contemplation: Fellowship (metoche): partnership, sharing in, partaking of. Communion (koinonia): sharing in common, joint participation, association. Accord (sumphonesis): a sounding together (concord, kjv). Agreement (sunkatathesis): a putting together or joint deposit, approval. Part (meris): a part as distinct from the whole, an assigned part, a portion. This citation is from "Fellowship and Unity of Believers": http://www.bibleanswer.com/fellowshipandunity.htm

The leading academic paper outlining the theory of beauty in proportions: Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz “The Great Theory of Beauty and its Decline” in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 31, no. 2, 1972, 165-180.

How to change your spouse

Well, there are basically two ways to do this. One works better than the other, but it takes longer.

You can do it as a project -- like any project around the yard. For example, when I built my shed, I had to saw a lot of lumber to get things to fit. You can change your spouse that way. Don't like something she does? She isn't doing something you want her to do?

Saw it off. Then she'll fit you better.

This entails taking her on: talking to her, confronting her, insisting on X Y Z, and so forth. After all, you've got to be The Head Of The House.

This is the project approach to changing your spouse.

It doesn't work.

Well, when it does work, what you have is an artificial truce: a brittle agreement that may look like unity, but has no depth to it. Think Middle East peace treaties.

Or you can do it the phenomenological way. This is a big word. But the good news is that it requires little action. Let me give you an example:

When Valerie and I did Weight Watchers some years ago, we both swore off sugar in our tea. We started using Splenda. Fast forward four years. I heard something about possible side effects from artificial sweeteners, so I started using agave (it's like honey). Valerie sniffed and said, well, she'll continue using Splenda. This has been going on for about a year. I never said a word.

Remember: the phenomenological method doesn't require much talking. Love and honor often means not saying much.

Fast forward to the conversation last night before we both dozed off:

V: "... I exchanged some emails with Jeremy today ..."

D: "... oh, what about ...?

She rattles off a few things. Then:

V: "... I told him you can get agave at the Costco ..."

D: "... oh, he's interested in agave?"

V: "... Yea, I told him we're not using Splenda anymore ..."


That's the phenomenological way to change your spouse.


Mark 4.26-27 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

1 Peter 3.7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Technology and St. Steve

You might recall when the Apostle Peter was locked in a Roman prison. In the middle of the night an angel came, opened the prison gate, and Peter walked out a free man.

These days we don't need angels; we have OnStar to unlock doors for us.

We also have the iPad.

This is the cover of last week's
Economist. Steve Jobs, in full saintly regalia complete with halo, comes out of the clear blue sky and delivers -- not the Ten Commandments -- but the iPad. As he points to this revelation, the lace on his silky prophet's robe features fingers pointing upwards. And St. Steve's smile is not deific; it is more of a smirk.

Religion has traditionally made use of the "shock and awe" of miracles to underscore its legitimacy.

But one side effect of technology is that it has erased much of what was once considered miraculous.

People aren't shocked or awed by much of anything these days. At least not for more than 15 minutes.

After all, we have the iPad.

It would be a fascinating study to correlate declining religious commitment to areas of the world where the fruits of cyber-technology are more readily available.

How to live a life of devotion to the call of Christ in a cyber-age filled with technological miracles? It strikes me there are two factors to remember for a retention of true spirituality.

First, technological "miracles" are those that extend the powers of human mental and physical capacities: more memory, better communication, faster fabrication of utilitarian objects, increased physical comfort, so on. But it doesn't raise people from the dead. In other words, technology might improve quality of life, but it doesn't give new life, everlasting life.

True Christian spirituality has always been about this latter category of reality.

Second, technology doesn't change human
moral nature. Indeed, in terms of sheer numbers, more people were murdered in the twentieth century -- most of them by technological innovations not available to previous ages -- than in any century before.

True Christian spirituality has always been about moral beauty from within, not technological prowess from without.

Jesus himself, although He performed miracles, never predicated His message of hope on those miracles. That is because He was not primarily concerned about the betterment of this life, but that the world might have an altogether New Life through His own death and resurrection.

Jesus also knew how fickle people were. Our generation is not the only one that, having seen something visually great, forgets it in about 15 minutes. We are just better at doing it.


John 20.29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Luke 16.31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

John 12.37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.

Acts 12.7 ... 10 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon [him], and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from [his] hands ... When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him.

What became of Adam's three sons?

Well, the first two were Cain and Abel. Not much became of Abel, because Cain murdered him.

Translated, Cain means Acquisition and Abel means Breath.

So ACQUISITION murdered BREATH. Cain took Abel's breath away. That's something to stop and mull over.

What became of Cain? Well, Cain made something of himself. He built a city; it was the first city ever built by man. What a difference a generation makes! Cain's father, Adam, lived in Paradise -- until Adam's sin. But his son, Cain, never knew paradise.

So Cain did the next best thing: he built a city. That's something to stop and mull over: the City of Man a substitute for Paradise.

Cain's descendants also made something of themselves. In fact they were quite prolific. It is from Cain's descendants that we have tent-making (which is to say, architecture).

It is from Cain that we have every kind of tool-making (which is to say, technology).

It is from Cain that we have "the harp and pipe" (what we today would call arts and entertainment).

Cain's descendants developed husbandry; they bred cattle.

It is also from Cain's line that we have re-definitions of marriage: a 5th-generation descendant of Cain, Lemech by name, took to himself two wives. Aside from this accomplishment, Lemech also murdered a man.

It is also from Cain that we have the woman Naamah. And what does her name mean? CHARMING.

Architecture; animal husbandry; technology; music; and CHARM. The culture of the world. This is what became of Cain.

But there was a third son. His name was Seth. Translated, Seth means APPOINTED.

Christ comes from the line of Seth -- at the appointed time.

And with the Christ, BREATH also came back.


Genesis 4.17 Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain's sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, "Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times." Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, "God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him." Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.

Galatians 4.1-5 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Job 33.4 The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.

Acts 2.2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting ...

When was imagination invented?

The word "imagination" crops up repeatedly in the intellectual writings of the eighteenth century.

Before the eighteenth century, imagination had not been invented.

Oh, to be sure, the King James Version of the Bible uses the word "imagination" a total of 14 times. In every case except one, "imagination" is used in a negative sense, meaning stubbornness of heart, or self-willfulness against God.

But that is not how "imagination" was used in the eighteenth century.

The eighteenth century invented a faculty of imagination.

In other words, the imagination as a distinct power of the mind, a unique and autonomous ability to IMAGE realities that do not exist, but that can be made to exist by human ingenuity.

Here is the philosopher Immanuel Kant writing in 1790:

"The imagination … in its role as a productive cognitive power is very mighty when it creates, as it were, another nature out of the material that actual nature gives it...."

The imagination, then, is the power we use to create new natures.

To create new natures.

We can take the material "actual" nature gives us ... and (quoting Kant again): "... process that material into something quite different, namely, into something that surpasses nature...”

What was happening in the eighteenth century that spawned this notion? Well...

1. A growing leisure class with time on its hands. It was at this time that the concept of "fine" art emerged: "fine" art is beautiful precisely because it has no practical use.

2. An Enlightenment mindset convinced that the only purpose of nature is for it to be harnessed for man's physical comforts.

3. The dawn of the Machine to make (2) possible, so that the leisure class can have more time to enjoy (1).

This is a serious question largely unaddressed by post-Enlightenment efforts at Christian theology:

How do we distinguish between the still small voice of the Holy Spirit ... and the powerful voice of this new faculty we have invented for ourselves...

... this faculty of IMAGINATION that can create entirely new natures out of the nature that God gives to us?


"Imagination" used negatively in Scripture (KJV): Genesis 6.5; 8.21; Deuteronomy 29.19; 31.21; Jeremiah 3.17; 7.24; 9.14; 11.8; 13.10; 16.12; 18.12; 23.17; Luke 1.51

"Imagination" used positively (KJV): 1 Chronicles 29.18 O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment (1790), translated by Werner Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1987). Section 49, 314.

Personal eschatology

The big word for end-time musings is eschatology.

You don't need to be in Christian circles for a long time before you find out what people think of the end times.

As with most things, they think differently.

Some people say Christ will reign a thousand years in an age to come. Other people say that age is now. Yet other folks say that much of Biblical prophecy was fulfilled in the first century -- and they get pretty worked up about specific dates.

Over the years, I've been variously fascinated with these meta-theories of God's grand plans for history. Each theory seems mighty sure of what will happen when -- and most of them are cock sure that this-or-that has already happened.

Confidence is always a neighbor of presumption.

These commentaries forget that Jesus said even He didn't exactly know how things will unfold ...

Now in my fifties, I am less and less sure about any of this stuff -- and more and more inclined to agree with Jesus.

I just don't know how it will all unfold.

One thing I do know:

My personal time is getting shorter and shorter.

Eschatology only makes sense when your own time to see the Lord draws nigh. That's the only view of the end times that really matters.


Mark 13.32-33 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

1 Corinthians 7.29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short ...