Tag Archives: Seminary

It’s going to be a good year

After much panic last week about which course are offered when and which I need to take in order to graduate in 2012, I think I’ve got it down pat.  I’ve started 4 out of my 5 classes and I think this will be a good semester.  There will be a lot of work (particularly reading), but it should be good.

Here is what I will be taking:

1. Old Testament Text and Interpretation — in a way this class scares me most because it will be very technical, looking at various manuscripts and codices and whatnot for the Old Testament as well as scribal culture, etc.  It is taught by the legendary August Konkel, who I’m sure will make the class very interesting.

2. Survey of Church History — this is a required course.  I covered a bit of medieval church history in university and I took a patristic fathers course last year, so this will cover some familiar territory.  But I don’t remember what I learned in that university class, and the patristic fathers course dealt mostly with theological development in the church, which this class will not delve into much.

There will be quite a bit of reading and writing for this course, but the assigned texts are interesting

— Rodney Stark – The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries

Thomas Cahill – How the Irish Saved Civilization

Shusaku Endo –  Silence

Mark Noll – The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind

3. Exegesis of Hebrew Narrative – 3rd semester Hebrew.  I’m looking forward to it.

4. Homiletics I – preaching class

5. Clinical Pastoral Experience – visitation class (not a class in which we visit with each other, but a class about pastoral visitation)

It’s a fuller schedule than I had intended to have, but it should be good.  Now that things are rolling, I’m quite relieved that I did not end up taking Greek exegesis as well.  It would have been too much–two languages in one semester, back-to-back timeslots.

And so the second year begins…

The Lord helps those…

I’ve dived (dove? doven?) right into my reading for this semester.  The first book I started is Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (a mouthful with the subtitle).  It’s written from a sociological perspective and one of the chapters deals with the fact that, among other things, Christianity was able to mobilize a human response to epidemics in a way that pagan religion was not able to.

What was new and different about Christianity was the “notion that more than self-interested exchange relations were possible between humans and the supernatural” and that “because God loves humanity, Christians cannot please  God unless they love one another” (86).  Emperor Julian–not a fan of Christianity–noted the benevolence of Christians and wanted pagans to at least match this activity, “but for all that he urged pagan priests to match these Christian practices, there was little or no response because there were no doctrinal bases or traditional practices for them to build upon.  It was not that Romans knew nothing of charity, but that it was not based on service to the gods” (88). The pagans mostly fled the cities to save themselves from epidemics; Christians stayed in the cities and cared not only for their own but also for those sick pagans who had been left behind.

There were, in Stark’s view, a number of implications to this Christian charity which contributed to the rapid rise of the faith, but that’s another matter (though an interesting one).  However, this particular passage struck me:

I suggest reading the following passage from Matthew (25:35-40) as if for the very first time, in order to gain insight into the power of this new morality when it was new, not centuries later in more cynical and worldly times:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.

When the New Testament was new, these were the norms of the Christian communities. Tertullian [one of the church “fathers”] claimed: “It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Only look,’ they say, ‘look how they love one another!'” (87)

This immediately put in mind of the relatively recent brouhaha over universal medicare in the U.S. Run from your church if they talk about social gospel!, says Glenn Beck (inexplicably the new spokesperson for what appears to be much of the Christian right).  What is the social gospel?  As far as I can tell, these words of Jesus in Matthew are the essence of the social gospel. And it comes from the mouth of Jesus!

How it is that the “Christian right” came to oppose the notion of universal healthcare is beyond me.  It seems to me that they ought to be the ones who most strongly support it.  I’m not suggesting that state sponsored medicare is a biblical mandate.  What is a biblical mandate is care for those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned and what have you.  The state steps in because Christians are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. Somebody needs to heed Jesus’ words.

It would be one thing if the Christian right opposed universal healthcare on the grounds that they wanted to provide it instead of the Joe and Jane Taxpayer, but from what I can gather those within the church who opposed universal healthcare are not afraid of the government shuffling into their territory.  At least, not the territory of taking care of orphans and widows in their distress.  But the territory of tax dollars and the American dream?  Yes.  After all, God helps those who help themselves, it says somewhere in Hezekiah.

It scares me to think that many Christians seems to be drifting away from this “notion that more than self-interested exchange relations were possible between humans and the supernatural”.

Miscellaneous 1 (Delay; Classes; Pets)

Yes, yes, I know.  More England posts.  They’re coming. There’s a long way to go yet: Warwick Castle, Somerton, Oxford, Bath, Lyme Regis, Stonehenge, Bramley. I took a bit of a break, then I got preoccupied with a bunch of stuff going on (including a sermon yesterday).  And then our internet has been off since Thursday (I’m writing from a school building and I don’t have my pictures with me).

Some random stuff in the meantime:

* * *

I registered for this semester with great confidence: Homiletics I (preaching); intermediate Hebrew; intermediate Greek; Clinical Pastoral Experience (essentially visitation).  Then I noticed that there was an unusually large amount of required courses being offered this year.  So I spent a week stressing and hunting down professors and getting advice.  Turns out that there are several core courses offered this year but not next year, meaning that if I want to graduate next year, I had to switch my schedule around.

So now I’m registered for 5 courses and face an incredible amount of reading for the next 3 months (about 12 books, plus supplementary reading, papers, translation and two sermons).  I still have mixed feelings about the schedule–I’m not sure why I was so hung up about taking two languages this semester.  Greek will be a little more difficult with a full year between classes, but I’ll survive.  And all the classes I’m registered for look interesting (as do the books I have to read).

* * *

The kids want a pet.  I’d gladly get a 5-gallon fish tank and a school of neon tetras, but fish are, apparently, “boring” and “don’t do anything.”

This is what the kids have suggested:

  1. Kittens (possibly one for each of them)
  2. Puppies
  3. A hamster (which I ruled out immediately because–and I quote–“We don’t need any more rodents in this house.”)

I’m not sure what to say and Dixie and I can’t seem to come to any sort of resolution.  Part of me thinks we should wait until we have a more permanent residence, but I’m not sure why that is.  The previous owner of this mobile home had two large dogs and a cat (and a child).  One pet isn’t going to be a big deal in terms of space.

But then a pet is that much more financial and time responsibility.  And I think I’m a dog person, not a cat person.  Getting a puppy would be like having another child; getting a trained dog that’s a year old or so would be good, but wouldn’t “grow up” with the kids, which is something I’ve always thought would be nice.  Dogs have personality and you can wrestle with them (we’d get a bigger dog, like a labrador), but they’re high maintenance.

But, quite frankly, I’m not sure if I’m really not a cat person, or if it’s just left-over sentiment from when I was a boy, when it was easy to categorically dismiss things like cats and country music.

Dogs may have a more lovable personality, but cats are lower maintenance and would help with any future mice problems.

I don’t know.

Hermeneutical trump cards

In order to produce a ‘normative’ statement out of the New Testament it is practically inevitable that one will emphasize one part of the text at the expense of the rest. This functions, at both a scholarly and a popular level, by means of elevating certain parts of the theology of the New Testament…into a ‘canon within the canon’…. This is not to say that one should not operate with some sort of inner canon: all interpreters do, whether they admit it or not, in that all come to the text with some set of questions that begin the encounter. The question then is: what should we do with this starting-point? Should we use it simply as a way in to the material, remaining conscious of its implicit bias? Or will it be used as a Procrustean bed by which to measure, and condemn, the other bits that do not fit? (N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 21-22.)

Hermeneutics is not just a question of what we do with the text. It is also about recognizing what we each bring to the text or impose on the text.

One of my papers for my hermeneutics class last semester was on the subject of infant baptism. The assignment was to take an issue that has divided our church (or the church in general) and examine the hermeneutical questions and challenges of each position. What made this paper particularly interesting and useful was that we were not to take a side on the issue, not to argue for one or the other, but simply to present the respective arguments and then examine and critique the hermeneutical issues at hand.

I chose infant baptism because I grew up in a believer baptism setting. That is, the denominations in which I participated did not practice infant baptism, but only baptized adults (or individuals beyond a certain age) who have made a personal decision to follow Christ. The denomination of which we are now a member and in which I hope to be ordained practices both infant and believer baptism.  What this means is that the child of believing parents is not automatically baptized. Instead, parents choose whether they want their child baptized or simply dedicated so that they can choose to be baptized on their own when they are older. After writing this paper, this conscience-based position seems like the sensible thing. However, pastors in our denomination are required to do both. If the parents want their child baptized, the pastor has to be willing to administer it. So this paper was a useful exercise for me.

There are a number of issues at stake in this issue, but I won’t get into all of them now, but one hermeneutical issue in particular stood out to me: giving certain verses or passages precedence over others. Among the various arguments for or against this position, there is one significant place where both sides use the same passages to argue for opposing positions: the household baptisms in Acts. The text is technically silent on the presence of infants in these household baptisms. The believer’s baptism-only side (credobaptists) argues that since infants are not specifically mentioned, they must not have been included. The infant baptism side (paedobaptists) will say that while infants are not specifically mentioned in the text, a household would by definition and in all likelihood have included infants.  In this instance, both sides are using the silence of the text to argue for their position. In other words, the Bible itself nowhere else explicitly states whether there were or were not infants included in these household baptisms. The interpreter has to make a hermeneutical decision as to how to approach these texts and “outside” (that is, from other parts of scripture or theology) influences inevitably come into play.

Of course, both sides have ways of supporting their position by drawing on other Biblical texts which indirectly relate. The credobaptist, however, will say something like this: “Every instance of individual baptism in Acts is preceded by belief/decision, so it follows that the same happened in the household baptisms.”  This is where it gets interesting. Here’s how I put it in my paper:

The question must be asked…whether the cases of believer baptism and the cases of household baptism are to be understood in the same way.  Is it reasonable to set a pattern for baptism that runs straight through both individual baptisms and household baptisms? Should the clear cases of individual believer baptism be given hermeneutical precedence so [that] they define the parameters of the more ambiguous household baptism passages? The believer’s baptisms are clearly dealing with adults, so it is not clear how they apply to the baptism of infants…

We do this sort of thing all the time, of course.  We use the passages that support our current position to smother the passages that seem to suggest something else. We are not comfortable living with the tensions of scripture. We like everything to be smooth and unambiguous, so we either overpower contrary texts  with the texts that support our position or ignore the contrary texts altogether.

But there’s no good reason that I can see for doing this sort of thing.  This is an example of what Wright calls “a canon within the canon”. We give certain texts more heremeneutical power than others, and it’s usually the passages which support our current position.  It looks kind of like this:

Paedobaptist: I think the household baptisms may at the very least allow for the possibility of infant baptisms.

Credobaptist: Every instance of an individual getting baptized in Acts shows clear personal commitment to the way of Christ.  So, I don’t think so.

Somehow, we think that simply naming the supporting texts is enough to deal with the contrary texts. But there’s no real reason for this.  The same thing will happen with many other issues. Christian universalism is a subject that I keep returning to.  It seems to me that the “hell passages” have been given trump powers over passages which may hint at something else or beyond.  So the conversation may look like this:

Universalism: I think the New Testament certainly allows for the possibility for universal reconciliation. Take, for instance, Paul’s writing about Christ dying once for all and Christ being the new Adam who does the sin of the first Adam.

Exclusivism: Yeah, but the New Testament has all sorts of references to hell and judgement.  So, I don’t think so.

End of discussion. But this kind of trump move is hermeneutical dishonesty.

Greek Intensive: Complete

I wrote my final exam for my Greek I & II this morning.  This Biblical (Koine) Greek intensive covers two semesters’ worth of Greek in 4 weeks. And truth be told, it wasn’t that bad! Everyone I spoke to was all doom and gloom about the month-long intensives.  “Say goodbye to your family for the month!” they’d say.  “You’re selling your soul to Greek!”  On the first day of class (only a month ago!) the professor said, “You shouldn’t be working at this until 3 in the morning and through the weekend.  Instead, work X hours and then stop. Use some time over the weekend for review.”  That immediately relaxed my work-load expectations.  I even managed to have a bit of a social life this month.  The night before my mid-term exam I was out all night for another professor’s ordination service (Anglican: bishop in headdress and all. Quite a beautiful service.)  As it happened, my Greek professor was sitting behind me during the service.  I was a bit nervous about what he would think, but the next day in class he commended me on attending the service and putting important things first.  I like that.

This morning’s exam was “simply” translating Matthew 13:1-23.  We had to provide a literal word-for-word translation (ignoring English syntax, etc.), which would tell the professor that we understood the individual parts of the Greek words and sentences we were translating. Then we had to make a smooth translation–make the passage sound like good English.

The exam began at 8:45am; at noon I was only on verse 13 and my classmate was on verse 7.  The professor came in and said, “I’m going to give you an option. You have all translated enough for me to know how well you are doing and how much you’ve learned over this course.  I will know enough to grade you. You can hand in what you have now, or if you want you can keep working through to the end.”

“I hate this kind of option,” I said.

“You’re worried that it’s going to affect your mark,” he replied.

“Yes…Will it affect my mark?”


For some reason, I felt a little bit like it was a trick question. The true Greek scholars among us would muscle through to the end. The paranoid man in me.  Of course, if I stayed, I would probably be there for much of the rest of the afternoon.  And Dixie and the youngest two kids and I were supposed to go for a celebratory lunch in a bakery and cafe in small-town Manitoba somewhere.

I gave it some more thought. Hmmmm…he gave us the option. And I assume that in this context the question was not a test of character (evidently my real concern). I guess I’ll just hand it in.

I’m still a little unsettled about not translating the entire passage.  But I had a nice lunch with my family and a free afternoon!

Now, if anyone ever asks me about the Greek intensive course, I will give them a couple of suggestions.  I share them here only for my own sake, as I’m sure most of you are not considering taking a Greek intensive.

1. If you have trouble memorizing things, you may not want to take an intensive language course.  There is a lot of memorization (300+ words plus various paradigms) on top of all the grammar.  If you struggle with memorization, it might be better to take Greek or Hebrew during a regular semester in which you will have time between classes for memorization.  The pace of memorization is slower over a semester, but there is also more opportunity to forget!  Without trying to sound braggy, I’ve always been fairly good at memorizing, which has been very helpful.

2. Take a language during regular semester time first before taking an intensive. Don’t learn an ancient language in intensive course without having some ancient language background first.  Now, of course, I don’t know what that would be like. I say this because I found that having taken Hebrew last year was a tremendous asset while learning Greek.  Some of the grammar terminology was familiar as were some of the unusual ways that ancient languages work.  What was perhaps most beneficial, however, was that having taken Hebrew I already had a memorization/learning system set up that worked best for me.  I didn’t have to figure out how I was going to memorize all these words while trying to memorize them–I simply started memorizing.

3. Learn the alphabet before the class starts and perhaps even start learning some vocabulary in advance as well.

4. Don’t do more than is required of you (unless you feel you have the time).  There were some nights where I had to learn X, but I thought “Perhaps I could learn Y and Z as well.”  I did that on occasion, but usually I chose to relax instead.

5. Get to bed on time.  If you’re not well rested, you won’t learn as well.  (I can’t memorize when I’m over tired.) This is true for any kind of class, of course.

People have asked me if I think Greek or Hebrew is a harder language to learn.  I really can’t say which.  The only way I could figure that out is if I could forget everything about Greek and Hebrew this year, do it all over again, but in reverse, and then remember everything again in order to compare.  I will say that Greek vocabulary was perhaps a little easier because there is more transfer between Greek and English than Hebrew and English (e.g. it’s not hard to remember that baptizo means “I baptize”.)

I’m done!  And now I begin translating Phillipians from the Greek and Ruth from the Hebrew in preparation (and working ahead) for next fall’s Greek 3 and Hebrew 3 courses.  But first, a movie with Dixie.

Every man does his best.

For every man in the world functions to the best of his ability, and no one does less than his best, no matter what he may think about it.  — John Steinbeck, The Pearl

These words got me thinking, though I don’t know if I’m interpreting them correctly.  This school year has been one of tensions, and among those tensions perhaps the strongest was the tension between what I thought I was capable of doing and what I ended up doing. I’m not talking about grades, because I couldn’t have asked for better grades. Instead, I’m thinking of my own evaluation of my work.

I think I’ve mentioned before that going into seminary I did not want papers to become just a product that would please the professor or meet assignment requirements, but I wanted them to be something I did just as much for my own benefit. This was, of course, a bit of an idealist picture of what the school year would look like. Between the 4 or 5 classes in a semester, assignments, family responsibilities and rest there is really only so much a person can do. Especially as the end of a semester approaches and deadlines loom, the balance almost by necessity has to shift to making a product. Assignments simply need to be completed on time.

For some reason Steinbeck’s line got me thinking about this tension.

…no one does less than his best…

Is it even possible for me to reasonably accurately evaluate my own work? When I think this paper could be better, is that a fact or do I simply think too little of my work (or too much of my potential)? I often think that if I had a couple more days a paper could be much better than it is the day I hand it in. All else being equal (e.g. being well rested), would a couple of days really make a difference?

…no matter what he may think about it.

What if my best is just what it is I’m doing? What if my best includes not only how I write, but the influence of my personality, work habits, etc.? In this way, my best is simply what I am able to at this moment–including my faults and shortcomings–rather than what I could do given any number of factors (i.e. my potential).

I’m still thinking this through. It has an effect on how I feel about assignments. I can live in regret about what could have been, or can accept what simply is or even had to be under the circumstances.

The small things

I’ve been meaning to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together for a couple of years. Once again, my book purchasing anticipated my course syllabus: I was required to read it this semester.  It’s a great book–one which will be worth reading over and over again over the years.  For some reason–probably because it strikes a current sensitive spot–this passage stuck out to me:

We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.  We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good.  Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious. We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? (p. 29, emphasis mine)

It could be all Greek to me.

Well, today it was officially announced in class: introductory Greek will not be offered next year, as they are starting a rotation of the languages offered. Rather than teach all levels of every language every year, they will alternate intro and advanced years.  This provides some clarity in my decisions for which classes to take, but not enough to actually make the decision. This development means I take intro to Greek (which I must take for my degree) this May or in my third year.

If I take it in May, I will be able to take intermediate Greek next school year. I’d like to take the intermediate level of both Greek and Hebrew, but if I do, it looks like one of those languages will be on my own time and dime: that is, I’ll get credit for them, but they will be over and above my program requirements (I’ve been advised that auditing the languages is not a good idea).  Plus, Greek will be helpful and informative for future New Testament classes.

While I think having advanced learning in both languages would be very valuable in pastoral ministry (particularly if I will do a lot of preaching), the question is, do I want to take the time and money to do those courses now, or take them later as opportunity arrives or pursue some self-study? I’m not sure I’m disciplined enough for self-study, but then Hebrew has been one of my favourite classes and I usually look forward to translating it into English. I may develop a similar passion for Greek.

If I don’t take Greek in May, I will not take advanced Greek at all, because that would require us staying here for an additional year just so I can take two courses. As far as I can see at this stage, that option is unlikely.

However, I’ve been told that it’s quite an opportunity to be able to study under Tremper Longman III, who, as I said in a previous post, is teaching a week-long course on Proverbs in May. Then there’s the Hebrews course also offered.  And another core course.

I given most of these angles by my faculty advisor (who is also my Hebrew professor), which was helpful for clarifying the categories for decision-making, but still kind of leaves me in the same place: so many good options!

Basically, I need to decide in the next couple of weeks which language I want to take advanced courses for.  I wish it was possible to see a plan of all classes to be offered for the next couple of years so I could plot my whole course. Alas, I won’t even know what will be offered next year for another week or two.

I suppose I could just follow my program, which requires both intro I & II for both Hebrew and Greek and only one second-year language for only one of the languages. But languages are so fun and would be so useful!


AN ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: I’m sick of writing papers for this year.  I won’t have to write papers for Greek and at the end of May I’ll be done.  With the other courses I’ll be working into June.

Plus other stuff…blah blah blah…

ALSO ALSO: If I don’t take the Greek course, it will be easier for Dixie to take a course in May which she wants to take.  But also, I think my heart might be telling me to take Greek. Or maybe it’s just my mind telling me it has had enough of research papers for a couple of months.

The Hour of Decision

It’s decision time again, or nearing it. One of the pleasures of school life is selecting next year’s classes and perusing their syllabi. It’s also a pain trying to make the classes I want to take work with the classes I need to take as part of the program.

Decision A — Last fall I had decided to take the month-long intensive Greek course in May. Getting this introductory class out of the way will open up my choices for next year.  However, I had been warned by several people that when you take a month-long intensive language course you give up your life. I was dubious. They are morning classes. Surely I would be able to study in the afternoon and spend the evening at home with my family. And then last Friday a professor actually confirmed what had been told to me by students: with the intensive courses, you sell your soul to the language for that month.  I’m not sure I want to do that.

An additional quandary is that in May there will also be a couple of interesting modules taught by scholars from outside the school. Most notably, perhaps, is Tremper Longman III’s class on Proverbs, but there’s also Grant R. Osborne’s class on Hebrews.  Both Proverbs and Hebrews tend to be regarded as somewhat mysterious books which people are unsure of how to use. There is also a third, core course available at the end of May.

So many angles to consider: the subject matter; program requirements; unusual professors (e.g. scholars from the outside); which faculty members will be teaching the languages (they alternate from year to year); which courses will fit within the parameters of my program; which courses should be taken before which; which courses will require fewer other courses in the same semester; etc.

One of the frustrations is being “forced” by my program into not taking classes that I would like to.  Of course, I can take any course I want to, but at some point they will fall outside of my program requirements (credit and/or subject-wise). $1,000 a pop for courses which will not apply towards my degree is a bit steep. And auditing isn’t always a realistic choice. This semester, for instance, I had hoped to take 3 classes from a professor who will be leaving at the end of the semester, but because of scheduling conflicts and program requirements, I could only take one.

I want to make this decision soon, but unfortunately next year’s class schedule will not be available until mid-April. And next year’s class schedule will have a bearing on my choices for May’s classes.

Decision B — A fellow student alerted me to this once-in-a-lifetime deal on Karl Barth’s 14-volume Church Dogmaticsa savings of 90%–or NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS! ($100 for a $1,000 set)–on a foundational work of theology. My first impulse was to jump on the bandwagon and purchase the volumes (this is a pre-release special).  But then I realized from a short-term monetary perspective I could not justify the purchase. Plus there is the monument to impulse buys which is much of our property, including a number of our books. Plus there is the fact that I’m not likely to read them all.  So I had put that thought off for a while.

I mentioned it to my theology professor today–admittedly a Barthian–and he said that this was a price I’d never get again and that it is a reference work, essentially a set of commentaries which would be extremely useful to me (he also noted that he–a Barthian–had only read about 60% of it). He said that he wasn’t just suggesting that I buy it–he implored me to get these books. And when you consider the long-term monetary perspective, it does make some sense.

Eastern Orthodox service

(My December 2008 Bob Ross post has consistently been the most active and most visited post since then.  Bizarre.  It’s the Dark Side of the Moon of my posts.)

I nearly skipped community chapel today, but I noticed that it was to be an Eastern Orthodox service of thanksgiving. It was led by a man studying for the EO deaconate and his wife (who I think teaches in the college). It was completely unfamiliar and fascinating. It was a “stripped down” version of a normal EO service. There were no bells or “smells”, and it was significantly shorter than a normal EO service. The point was simply to give us a glimpse into EO worship.

It is a very “liturgical” style of worship, done in a quasi-antiphonal unaccompanied chant. It was really quite beautiful and fitting to what I just read in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together:

Because it is wholly bound to the Word, the singing of the congregation…is essentially singing in unison… The Purity of unison singing, unaffected by alien motives of musical techniques, the clarity, unspoiled by the attempt to give musical art an autonomy of its own apart from the words, the simplicity and frugality, the humanness and warmth of this way of this singing is the essence of all congregational singing (59-60).

I don’t entirely agree with Bonhoeffer’s suggestion (and Dixie certainly won’t like his disdain for harmony), I can certainly agree that all the other stuff of congregational singing–the instruments and, yes, the harmony–can sometimes become a distraction. There is a certain purity and focus to the chant style of singing which really became apparent during this afternoon’s EO service.

But what struck me most of all is that 90 per cent or more of the words in the service were passages from the Bible. It was quite a bit for an evangelical like myself to take in. This says something about evangelical churches, who often pride themselves in being “Bible-believing” Christians, doesn’t it? We may call ourselves such things, but there is often a severe lack of scripture heard in a given evangelical service, certainly in comparison to the EO service.

EO worship is certainly a different world from evangelical worship, but it is not entirely other, as I might have suspected before having any experience with the mysterious EO church.