Those crazy anti-filioquists!

You’ve all seen the crazy things people put on pieces of cardboard at hockey and football games, not to mention the slogans seen on strike lines and at protests. But this one is for that wild and crazy bunch which I simply call the “anti-filioquists”!

To read more about this, go here:

HT: David Miller

Friendship: An Italian Proverb

I’m just having a light supper at an Italian restaurant (with complimentary wireless!) here in Princeton. I loved the proverb on the wall:

Amicizie e maccheroni sono meglio caldi.

Translation: “Friendship and macaroni are best when warm.”

Warmly to all my Theommentary reading friends,


P.S. See below.

Experimental theology of Rock, paper, scissors

Suppose you have been given the unique privilege of spending an afternoon with the ascended Jesus Christ. In a surprising moment of the day, he asks you if you would like to play a few rounds of  “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” This hypothetical scenario raises a interesting theological question: Would you win any rounds?

If you are an Ebionist theologian, Jesus is human like any other human. So the odds of winning would be pretty much 50/50. The only problem is that like every other human living in the first century, Jesus wouldn’t be around today to play. The experiment would be, to say the least, uninteresting, and to be sure, unable to be carried out.

If you are a WWJD sort, this hypothetical situation would leave you somewhat in the lurch. Since there’s no clear precedent of Jesus playing any sort of game, it would be difficult to determine what Jesus would do in this situation. But likely, he’d do whatever we think he’d do. So if you are feeling down, Jesus would let you win–as a sort of encouragement. Or if you have a bit too much pride for winning too many rounds, he’d promptly show you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought. But frankly, this theology doesn’t help us too much…

From the perspective of a classical theology of divine omniscience (say in the Thomistic sense), it is clear you would be unable to win any rounds, because Jesus would know in advance (exhaustively from now until eternity) every move you will ever make. The “Thomist Jesus” would make for quite an astounding win record Jesus, but for observers, it would quickly become a pretty dull match. And probably pretty dull for Jesus, too.

From the perspective of “openness theism,” you theoretically have as good a chance of winning rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors with Jesus as you would any other friend. This is because, according to openness theologians, Jesus  would not have exhaustive knowledge of the future, including whether you would pick rock, paper or scissors each round. He may know you much better than you know yourself, so he could predict with greater accuracy what you would pick. But it seems you’d still have a chance of winning an occasional round and Jesus would willingly take the risk of playing with you. I just can’t imagine it would be appropriate to do a victory dance if you did win…

From the perspective of Molinism (the view that God is truly sovereign over creation while giving humans true freedom of the will), Jesus would have knowledge of all actual moves you will make, and every possible moves you could but don’t make (“counterfactuals”). But I can’t for the life of me figure out whether Jesus would let you win some rounds “just because” he’s a good sport and wants to let me know that I have genuine free will. But even if he did let you win, such a “win” would seem to be a bit “empty,” don’t you think?

If you are a process theologian, things become, I think, much more unpredictable. According to Charles Hartshorne, human actions have “a contributing value to God which he would otherwise lack” (Hartshorne, “The Dipolar Conception of Deity,” Review of Metaphysics [1967]: 274). In the process way of thinking, Jesus might actually depend on you to win some rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors so that his own divine character is sharpened and enriched through his interactions with you. Indeed, process theologians generally believe in an open future even for God. Thus, for you to win at Rock, Papers, Scissors with a “process Jesus” makes both you and him better! But if that is the case, then it seems ludicrous to depend on him to be a Saviour when the game is over…

If you are a liberationist theology, then it is clear that Jesus would let you win. In his solidarity with the “poor” (including those who are poor in Rock, Papers, Scissors abilities), he would become the loser to show his solidarity with all the other poor Rock, Papers, Scissors players.

If you are a “Jesus Seminar” kind of scholar, this whole “Rock, Paper, Scissors” thing is obviously a carry-over from ancient Babylonian practices of dispute resolution. So if Jesus wants to play Rock, Paper, Scissors…you better know he has a beef he wants to settle with you.

So what can we conclude?

Rock, Paper, Scissors is a lousy way to settle a theological dispute.


I’m in the midst of a pile of marking and occasionally come across some interesting things in student papers. One of my students completed a major research project on the place of confirmation in her denomination. In her paper, she cites the following about the practices of confirmation in the medieval church. The context is that Bishops were expected to complete the act of confirmation, but this became increasingly difficult. Consequently:

The Episcopal action often became perfunctory; bishops often did their confirming while they were on their horses riding past confirmands who were lined up along the edge of the road (an outsider could sneak into the row and be confirmed.) The “good” bishop was the bishop who would actually get off his horse and lay both hands on each confirmand. [David R Holeton, “Confirmation in the 1980s” in Max Thurian, ed., Ecumenical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (Geneva: World Council of Churches, Faith and Order Paper 116, 1983), 69]

And here we thought moderns had the corner on “efficiency” in ministry!

Church bulletin bloopers

You may have seen some of these before, but there’s some good new ones here as well… Enjoy!


The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes snacks and meals. 


The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’
Ladies , don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say ‘Hell’ to someone who doesn’t care much about you.
Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.
Miss Charlene Mason sang, ‘I will not pass this way again ,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and don’t know it , we have a nursery downstairs.

Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.
At the evening service tonight , the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.
Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones. 

Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.
Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you will want remembered. 


The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.

Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow. 

The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon. 

This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done.

The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday. 

Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door. 

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.
The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday: ‘I Upped My Pledge so up yours.’

audio, video, disco

Briercrest College and Seminary doesn’t have a cool Latin slogan, but if it did, I’d want it to be the following:

Audio, Video, Disco (translation: “I hear, I see, I learn.”)

Well, that’s not likely to happen…

But this sounds pretty good:

Verbum Dei nostri stabit in aeternum.

Why all the little beards?

Here’s something a little off the theological track: An analysis of the “new evangelicalism” from the perspective of…facial hair. The article is entitled, “Icons of the New Evangelicalism” and is subtitled, “Why all the little beards?”

In this provocative little article over at Killing the Buddha (subtitled, “the medium is the messiah”), author John D. Boy reflects upon the meaning and significance of the presence of goatees on the chins of influential evangelicals such as Rick Warren, Brian McLaren (yes, he’s included!) and Doug Pagitt (and formerly Mark Driscoll, who apparently has now ditched the whiskers). Boy cites the French literary critic Roland Barthes as his theoretical starting point:  “Among priests, it is not due to chance whether one is bearded or not.” According to Boy, Rick Warren’s choice not to shave at the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama, “suggests a pointed attempt to remake the evangelical iconography.”

Though I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the article yourself (some pretty probing and intelligent questions are asked here), in the end Boy echoes the question of Theodor Adorno, the German social critic, whether “the beard is the oppositionist costume of juveniles acting like cavemen who refuse to play along with the cultural swindle while in fact they merely don the old-fashioned emblem of the patriarchal dignity of their grandfathers.” Ouch!

There is an old saw  (that I could not source–anyone?) that says you could discern the theological bent of a theologian by what he did or didn’t smoke. (And yes, the pronoun is “he” here, because at the time the joke was making its rounds, well, there just weren’t a lot of “she” theologians) So, the maxim goes, if a theologian didn’t smoke at all, he was clearly fundamentalist.  If he smoked cigarettes, he was liberal. Pipe-smokers, of course, were neo-orthodox, cigar smokers were Chestertonian, and those who smoked cigarettes only with a cigarette holder, were influenced by French existentialism. So is there is a new saying emerging that tells us something of one’s theology by the amount or type of facial hair one sports? (It would be interesting experiment to figure out the categories!)

As an aside, it is an interesting phenomenon that historically, beards and moustaches were generally forbidden here in 1960’s and 1970’s when Briercrest College and Seminary was Briercrest Bible Institute (founded in 1935). Indeed, facial hair was generally frowned upon amongst fundamentalists in North American during the hippy era when facial hair represented rebellion against authority. But by the time I entered the college as a student in the mid-1980’s, beards were just beginning to be accepted on faculty, though I clearly remember some basic “do’s and don’ts” about facial hair in the student handbook, along with prohibitions of jeans in the academic building. But I clearly remember that the dean who hired me in 1993 sported a goatee! My how times changed! The question is, is that good or bad?

Oh, by the way, I recently shaved off the ends of my “horseshoe mustache” (though now I’m not sure what style it is). Amazingly, no one seems to have noticed, or else, no one is brave enough to say anything about it to me! My kids haven’t even said anything, even though once they cried when I shaved my moustache off! But my (only half-serious) question to myself is this: Does this act also signal a change to my theology? I’ll expect those who know me well to tell me in the coming months whether behind this recent decision to change my moustache lies an unconscious attempt to reinvent myself and my theology. In other words, is it true, to paraphrase Barthes, “Among theologians, it is not due to chance whether one is moustached/ goatee’d/bearded or not”?

P.S. I was just thinking about how many theologians I know with goatees…eery!