Song of Riddles

Title: Song of Riddles: Deciphering the Song of Songs

Author: Geula Twersky

Publisher: Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem

ISBN: 978-965-229-908-6

 

Review by Bob Lane

 

 

Geula Twersky has written an extra-ordinary book: start with the title, Song of Riddles, which announces immediately the approach taken in the analysis of the biblical “Song of Songs”- one of the most beautiful and, to many, puzzling, books to have been included in the collection of writings included in the Bible – and then consider the author, an award-winning artist who has exhibited in galleries around the world – go here to see some of her works – who also publishes scholarly articles in academic journals anent the study of the early Jewish texts.

The title states that the text to be analyzed is a riddle, and like any good riddle, there must be a secret meaning behind the text, pointed to, suggested, available, to the riddle breaker who invest the time and energy to unpack the “secret” meaning.

Read the review.

Grow a Soul

RAM-NewLogoNotes

 

Bob’s talk presented at the Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo :

Only Connect: genetics, culture, and the veil of ignorance

or
Grow a language, grow a morality, grow a soul

 


I want to thank the Fellowship for inviting me to your service today. I want to welcome friends and family.
I have enjoyed speaking to you on several occasions and once again thank you for the opportunity. Most recently both Peter Croft and David Weston were present to question me. I miss them both.
The last time I talked with you I gave you a quiz. No quiz today! Today I want to talk about roots and soil and souls and growth. You will notice that I speak metaphorically at times and that there is in the talk a subtle (or blatant) attempt to suggest that growing tomatoes is similar to growing a soul. After the last talk one of you asked me if I am an agnostic or an atheist. I answered, “Neither. I consider myself an ignostic.”
I have been thinking about that question and answer for some time now. Perhaps a parable will help:
An ignostic was asked whether she believed in God, and said, “If you mean a big man in a cloud, as some conceive of God, then I am an atheist, for we have satellites now which would have surely seen such a creature if he existed. If you mean an all-encompassing God who is synonymous with the cosmos, then I am a theist… though I see no reason for having two words for the same thing.
Ignosticism is the position that there are many different, contradictory definitions for the word “God”, so one can’t claim to be a theist OR an atheist until one knows which definition is meant. I don’t, for example, believe in or worship Thor or Zeus or Facebook.
Furthermore, if the chosen definition is incoherent and makes no predictions that can be empirically tested, then it doesn’t matter whether one believes in it or not, for how can something meaningless be true OR false? (this last part is also known in philosophy as theological noncognitivism). And yet, of course, we humans speak and write of God. Some of us die for what we think is God. Fly planes into buildings shouting his name. God, I believe, is a character in literature in the same way that Hamlet is or that Sherlock Holmes is – an interesting, complex, fascinating character, but living only in stories.

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Sunday’s Sermon

Bible Book

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  Listen to a CBC Interview with the author.

Comments on the book.

Featured on The Brights’ List

Preview

Click on cover to purchase.

Brief Reviews of RTB

from Dr. John A. Black:
“Lucid and provocative…Reading the Bible will appeal to both the religious and the secular: the first will be challenged, the second enlightened, by this erudite presentation of a fresh view of ancient tradition.”

READING THE BIBLE: Intention, Text, Interpretation was exactly the text I wanted to bridge the ever-widening gap between the ancient stories and contemporary students. I used the book in a second-year university course which studied the influence of the King James Bible on two 20th-century fiction writers: Howard O’Hagan (Western Canada) and Flannery O’Connor (Southern U.S.). Robert Lane has a unique gift for both interpreting key passages/motifs, and putting them into 21st-century perspective. Virtually every student in the class at some point remarked that this book made it possible to finally understand where much of our modern literature comes from. Lane’s style—a combination of meticulous scholarship and humourous personal anecdote—makes it accessible to all students and does much to correct the woeful ignorance in our society about this critical topic.  I highly recommend this text for any university course, including graduate level, which is concerned with the literary, cultural, and mythological aspects of the Bible.

Reviewed by Richard Arnold, Ph.D., Professor of English, Vancouver Island University

Sunday’s Sermon

 J. L. Schellenberg

The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy’s New Challenge to Belief in God

 J. L. Schellenberg, The Hiddenness Argument: Philosophy’s New Challenge to Belief in God, Oxford University Press, 2015, 142pp., $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780198733089.

Reviewed by Adam Green, Azusa Pacific University

J.L. Schellenberg’s book is an attempt to spell out his well-known argument from divine hiddenness against theism patiently and systematically so that anyone can understand it. One can see it as an atheistic mirror to the kind of book one sometimes sees theistic philosophers write where the author takes the fine-tuning argument or kalaam cosmological argument and tries to find a way to equip the average church goer to understand and profit from it. If one is familiar with the theistic equivalent, then one should realize that it can be hard to balance technical due diligence and the demands of addressing such a broad audience. If that’s the right way to think about the kind of book Schellenberg has written, however, I think it is largely successful. The average person on the street can pick up this book, and a trim 142 pages later, they’ll understand what the hiddenness argument is and why it is for many an important piece of evidence against theism.

Since the exact terms of Schellenberg’s argument (though not the spirit) have changed a bit over the years, let’s begin by quoting the version given in the book.

  1. If a perfectly loving God exists, then there exists a God who is always open to a personal relationship with any finite person.
  2. If there exists a God who is always open to a personal relationship with any finite person, then no finite person is ever nonresistantly in a state of nonbelief in relation to the proposition that God exists.
  3. If a perfectly loving God exists, then no finite person is ever nonresistantly in a state of nonbelief in relation to the proposition that God exists (from 1 and 2).
  4. Some finite persons are or have been nonresistantly in a state of nonbelief in relation to the proposition that God exists.
  5. No perfectly loving God exists (from 3 and 4).
  6. If no perfectly loving God exists, then God does not exist.
  7. God does not exist (from 5 and 6) (Schellenberg 103)

Read the review.

The Creation of God, a parody of Michelangelo'...

The Creation of God, a parody of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”. De-theism, a trans-religious theology, considered the Second School of Court Jester Theology, use modern scientific forms of analysis and argument to help understand, explain, test, critique, defend or promote the natural evolution of religion, and to clarify the post-theistic purpose of world religions aimed at demythologize the universe and assisting homo religiosis to successfully mourn the death of their gods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On converting . . .

convertA former student asks: “Speaking of conversions, Bob, did you have a conversion experience?”

First, let me quote myself [“Never to speak about oneself is a very noble piece of hypocrisy.”] :

It seems obligatory in a book like this to state where I “am coming from.” I am not a Jew. I am not a Christian. I was raised in a Christian family. We attended an Episcopal church when I was a small boy; after my mother remarried we attended a Lutheran church where I was confirmed at a young age. Shortly after that we started to attend a Methodist church, but none of these changes was, to my knowledge, based on any matters of doctrine, but rather on social reasons. I remember getting in trouble with the Lutheran pastor as a child because in Bible class I would ask real questions. “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,” it said in the catechism. Why?  The canned answer was: “The Lord, thy God, is a jealous God.” “Why is he jealous?” I would ask, “what would God have to be jealous of?” “Don’t ask questions,” the pastor would say, “just memorize the material.” That was the lesson of the church: do not ask questions; just memorize the stuff. There really was no life in the church. People came in, sat down, listened quietly, put some money in the collection plate, and then left to carry on with their lives as before. After hearing a sermon on the evils of “drink” and card playing, in which the punishments for disobedience were extremely uncomfortable, we would all get in our car and go to one of my step-uncle’s for an afternoon of drinking beer and playing pinochle. I learned to hate Jews (for they were somehow responsible for killing Jesus), Catholics (for they had all the riches), and Methodists (I cannot remember why). I learned hypocrisy, racism, and sexism (now called the “traditional” values by nostalgic writers who find the word “traditional” all fuzzy and warm). I read the Bible frequently because the stories were full of violence, sex, and mystery. I remember asking my mother what `womb’ means and she was very nervous and asked me where I had heard that word. When I told her I found it in the Bible she did not seem to know what to say. I had her! She arranged for my step-father to teach me about the “birds and the bees.” He in turn sub-contracted to a teen-aged farm hand who gave me a brief but descriptive lecture about things that I already knew. (The lecture, I remember, started like this: “So, you want to know about f…ing…,” my teacher at least exhibiting a sense of  the dramatic.)

After a few years in public schools and four years in the United States Marine Corps, I learned about sex and violence in more direct ways, and stopped reading the Bible until I was in university. At the University of California in Santa Barbara I was assigned as a teaching assistant to Professor Douwe Stuurman, who taught a course on the Bible. His classes were always full of interesting people. In the front row were the nuns, who, he said, were there to spy on him. Then came the middle-aged students looking for therapy, the literature and philosophy students, and the atheists who sat in the back. I tried to sit in a different part of the room each time. Stuurman had a Freudian, Eastern, Calvinist, Proustian background and the ability to mesmerize an audience. Above all he opened up the text for me. I read it with fresh eyes. These stories were marvellous works of art! Stuurman’s lectures were inspiring (I used to call them “Stuurman on the mount”) and unlike my Lutheran pastor, he asked questions all the time. When not at the university I spent my time cleaning the Unitarian Church in Santa Barbara, which meant that I had the opportunity to talk with Lex Crane, who was ministering there then. His background in literature was extensive and we used to have long talks about “meaning” while I should have been cleaning the toilets. I flirted with the idea of becoming a Unitarian minister, but never got the “call.” Because of this and more, I believe the Bible is worth reading and studying, not as moribund scripture but as living literature. – Reading the Bible: Intention, Text, Interpretation

So, there you have it. Not an exciting “flash of light” conversion nor a road to Damascus experience; just a growing away from the fairy tales of childhood.

And, I still read the bible stories.