First, I guess, are the things that are 'bothering me' right now. I just posted a few pieces on the Problem of Evil, and, of course, the general lack of closure on the subject is necessarily troublesome. I have no answers per se--I am not really sure we humans have a clear understanding of the problem even. I try to set out some of the boundaries of my thinking in the area--each of which makes a little sense, and contribute a little to my overall comfort level--but I recognize both my limitations and the limitations of the very 'essence' of the problem. I have always suspected that there is something 'wrong' with the word 'allow' in the question "why did God allow malice and/or suffering to eventuate?" I don't know what it is yet, and all of my 'suspicions' involve the 'rules of interfacing' between the divine and the derivative---which may not be traceable from THIS side of the interface.(And even the metaphor of 'interface' seems a bit odd to me.)
I am more than a little frustrated (sometimes) by my lack of adequate time, tools, training, and probably talent to penetrate further into these questions. I occasionally grieve (a milder, and more 'humble' form of grumbling!) over my situation in life. I am a computer exec--I am only a 'pop' philosopher; only an AMATEUR apologist; purely a wannabee historian...I 'worry' [in a Christian sense, of course, ;>) ] about being superficial in my analysis, about the journal articles I cannot get to, about the books in French and German that I cannot readily read, about having an 'unbalanced' view of a field. I have no illusions of being a scholar, nor any real hopes of ever becoming one.
We all have limitations, of course--NONE OF WHICH excuse us from being honest, taking a stand, and being continually self-critical and idio-revisionist. We are held accountable for what we DO have; not what we do not have. And so, I try to do the best I can, with what I have...
And, in a real sense ("He said, in a sudden burst of honesty..."), my situation makes perfect sense for me. For example, I cannot be accused of being 'paid to think this way'! I have the ability to acquire obscure reference works, and am 'forced' to let my ideas 'slow cook before serving.' No doubt my Shepherd knows what is best for this infant sheep (this is called the semi-presumptive act of the creature giving approbation to the Creator!)...So, I guess I will quit whining and 'get back to work' (smile).
These limitations become MOST obvious to me when I read/study outstanding works of scholarship, or read autobiographical pieces by serious thinkers. For example, I have just started reading through Morris' God and the Philosophers, spiritual autobiographies of professional philosophers who are ALSO outspoken theists (and often, Judeo-Christians). The amount of rigor and intensity with which they pursue their individual specialties is so humbling for me at times. I find myself wrestling the green monster of envy (only fleetingly though) at the ability to focus on one thing for so long. But my lot seems to be a strangely wide one--the Tank has the weirdest assortment of thoughts, areas, studies, sentiments--even jokes?! in it...
Perhaps the above is simply an admission that I need to be very careful in what I write (James 3.1), and that some of my forays into the deeper mysteries of the universe (e.g. evil, language) can at best only be suggestive of what I have come to THUS FAR.
One area that has captured my attention is that of the argumentative context of the NT. The recent work I did on the Messianic expectations of 1st Century Jewry made me aware of the surprising robustness of the literary context of that time, indicating a surprising (to me) amount of interaction between 'rival' groups or communities.. Consider some of the facts:
The upshot is that the non-Christian Jews had ample exposure to the NT and had opportunity to write rebuttals of the NT--had they been fanciful and historically inaccurate documents. They certainly wrote responses to OTHER 'problematic' documents (e.g. pseudepigrapha). And, with the manuscript data being uncovered periodically, the dating of the gospel literature is moving closer and closer to the death of Jesus. It is becoming increasingly difficult to postulate a period of 'legendizing' or 'Christianizing' of Jesus between Easter and the NT--the gap is getting smaller and smaller by the year.
Next topic: some of you have suggested that I tend to ramble, to long-windedness, to being wordy. Okay, so it might be a weakness, but, hey, I will 'glory in my weakness' (chuckle, chuckle)...sorry, but I don't intend to change...it is just my way of thinking out loud--(and you though my WRITING was confusing?!--you should see my thought-streams, eh?!)...
Next topic: I get to spend an entire 10 days in San Jose starting Thursday...amazing.
(I just had one of my kids in Cincinnati for the past week--
I did more 'outside' stuff in one week, than I tend to do in a year!...
it was great, esp. the canoe stuff)...I will be able to dig into some of the consciousness/linguistics issues that need attention during that time frame...[explanation: my biblical studies library is in Ohio; my philosophy library is in California. Since I don't spend as much time in CA as in OH, my writings in philox-areas (e.g. mind, epistemology, language) have been given short shrift to date...]
Also, I have been accumulating materials (some are still on order) for the continuation of the NT origins discussion with James Still (in the Hall of Arguments), but it has been slow going...and is somewhat dependent on the topic I mentioned above--to what extent were 'communities' isolated and 'allowed' to independently develop/perpetuate 'traditions' of Jesus etc. Stay tuned.
I really, really, really want to thank all of you who pray for me consistently--and for the care, concern, rebukes(!) and encouragement many of you have expressed about my schedule/lifestyle. Although I am obviously not very fast about e-responses, I really enjoy reading your email. Thanks for taking the time to share part of your life/thoughts with me.
And thanks for the TOUGH QUESTIONS!--it is in that crucible that I personally learn and grow so much...
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