Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some thoughts on the city of Babel

I was struck by two thoughts from a sermon on Sunday. Here is the first of these.

I noted a little nuance of the Babel story that I had not picked up before. Those of you who have heard me talk about either the kings & priests theme, or about Eden, will be familiar with one aspect of the Biblical story that I talk a bit about. In quick summary, Adam and Eve have both kingly (representative rule), and priestly (representative presence) roles, which are mandated in Gen 1, and manifested in the Garden, and would have, sine lapso, seen them extended God’s rule and presence throughout the earth through multiplication and the spread of humanity, which would, I argue, involve the spread of the Garden itself. The fall disrupts but does not destroy that plan, but it becomes the ongoing work of the people of God, as kings and priests.

One aspect of this is the contrast pairs of going/gathering, garden/city, and garden/desert that weave through the Bible. Between Eden and Eschaton there is no permanent gathering of God’s people, only gathering that leads to further going. Mission and church are mutually intertwined, but church always leads to mission, until one day there is no more mission, only church.

Likewise, since losing the garden, we have been making cities, gathering in human structures that are ambiguous at best. Revelation also resolves the contrast pair of Eden/Jerusalem by offering a Jerusalem-Eden, a Garden City.

What was interesting to note, in yesterday’s sermon, was a reference to Gen 11, the tower of Babel story, being contextualised by the Noah story. Specifically post-flood Noah and his family are given the “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” command again, Gen 9:1, 7. In Gen 11 these migratory fledgling nations do not scatter, but gather, and build not only the tower, which we all remember, but “a city and a tower”. Their gathering, I would argue, is one more proto-attempt to ‘return to the garden’, figuratively speaking. That is, to resist the scattering of God, deny his mission, and build a human paradise. In Gen 6:6 I would suggest, tentatively, that there is an echo of God’s deliberation in Gen 3, having eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, what next? SO too, “this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” It’s easy to hear this as God’s narcissistic ego getting in the way, and trying to put humanity down, but the thrust of the Gen 3 deliberation is that if, having eaten of the FTKGE, they go on to eat of the tree of life, that will be bad for humanity. A charitable reading here would see the same, if humanity in its present state, builds this city, it will be bad for humanity.

Note what you may never have noticed, in v8. “So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city”. It’s not the tower, but the city, that is mentioned in the last analysis. This self-salvation attempt is abandoned, and the people are scattered, because it is not then, not now, that a city will be built. Only, in the long view, through the death of Christ, can people be gathered back to the Garden, into a new city, to be scattered no more.

This passage is also the reason, theologically speaking, Esperanto will always fail. The confusion of the languages is, in anticipation, reversed at Pentecost, but not by unity of language, only by the miraculous speaking of tongues. Then, in Revelation, we get a vision of the heavenly community, the eschatological gathering, of every language and tongue. But that is almost another theme...

Friday, September 07, 2012

4 Things I’m excited about this week

1. Guild Wars 2
I am mostly a single-player computer game player, I am too lazy and socialisation-avoidant to pursue a lot of multiplayer things. So the only MMORPG I ever really played was Guild Wars 1, partly because it was pretty cheap by the time I got into it, partly because they have a non-subscription model of payment, and I won’t play subscription games (I can understand the rationale for subscription games, from the publishing side, but from the player side it just makes it a more unhealthy addiction).
Anyway, I have been pretty excited about GW2 for about the last year or so, because everything I ever heard about it was amazing. And it released about 2 weeks ago, and I have been enjoying it greatly ever since (well, I did play in some of the late open beta testing as well). I particularly like that it’s a game that
rewards, and never penalises, cooperation
has a fairly friendly player base (that I’ve encountered)
has amazing gameplay and visuals
has jumping puzzles! that work!

2. Keyman
I am usually pretty loath to just promote products and companies. I don’t really like spamming my twitter feed with retweets and ads for other people, mainly because I don’t myself want to read such things. But this week I’m endorsing Keyman Desktop 8. I think I’ve written about Keyman before on this blog, but I really do like it a great deal. I use it for typing a number of languages, and I love that I can just set up hotkeys, and switch between languages with a single set of button-presses; It’s helped me learn to touch type Ancient Greek, and Mongolian, and it also gets you into using unicode fonts rather than those older fonts that are not unicode (I don’t know what they are called, but they never convert well!).

3. GMB
I’m in a bit of a spruiking mood today, so let me keep talking about companies that deliver products I love and enjoy. Gold Medal Bodies produces, hmm, gymnastics-based fitness programs with instructional videos? I think that is a fair description. I was lead to check them out after learning a bunch of parkour from the Tapp brothers (who are pretty good, though I don’t really like their style of marketing), and getting a link to GMB’s yoga stuff. it was about this time that I was becoming more interested in gymnastics-based things, and GMB fit the bill perfectly. Here’s why they are great:
They know what they are talking about!
The quality of their instructional materials is excellent
Their programs are well laid out, the progressions are manageable, and they are written for ordinary people, not elite athletes
They are super friendly, and the support is fantastic.

4. The Atlantic Gaelic Academy
Last year I signed up, a little bit spur-off-the-moment, with the AGA to take an online class in Gaelic. It emerged as the best option for continuing to develop my Gaelic, and slotting in at Intermediate 2 level worked out really well. It gave me both some extra structure to my studies, and a lot more speaking practice than I’ve probably ever had. I do have some minor criticisms of their program, but nothing I want to share here (if you’ve listened to any of my language-learning rants, you’ll know where I’m coming from). Instead I want to focus on the positives! They are pretty well organised, have great tutors, and are really committed to teaching and propagating the Gaelic language. The sheer fact that I can take a class from Mongolia in Gaelic over the internet is truly a modern marvel, and so I’m extra excited for the new academic year starting shortly, in which I’ll be diving into Advanced Level 1.