Friday, July 25, 2014

I'm releasing an album next week...

Click on the image to access the album page
So, I'm releasing an album next week for my music project Temple Autonomy. It used to be called John Daniel Was Here, but I had grown tired of that name, and I didn't think it fit the kind of music I was writing. My songs are serious to me, and that name didn't quite capture the reflective nature of my music. I am much happier with Temple Autonomy.

The album is called Like a Burning Fire in My Bones and it will be released next Friday, August 1st. You must be thinking, "Dang, he really likes that little phrase!" Well, I do. But it's more than that. Jeremiah's cry to Yahweh that he is like a burning fire in the prophet's bones, too weary to ignore and deny, resonates with my experience so perfectly. It describes quite nicely the struggles in my life thus far, and it is reflected in the songs I write. Because it captures so well the experience which led to the 10 songs I wrote for the album, I just couldn't think of a more fitting title.

The songs that made it on the album span a long period of my life, from late 2010 to this summer. There were several other songs that I wrote in the last couple years which I felt didn't belong on this album, either because I still need to work on them or because I became disenchanted with them.

I started recording in the Fall of last year. When I began, I told myself I would take as long as I needed to make the album everything I wanted it to be. I realized over time that this just wasn't going to happen. It seemed that the harder I tried and the more time I put into perfecting a song, the worse it got. What I found over and over was that the songs were best when I just sat down and recorded them live, with minor changes in the editing process. I found out that I don't like making musically tight songs, edited to perfection. When you listen to the album, I want you to be able to tell that there's a real human on the other end.

The result is an album with some imperfections and mistakes. Not re-recording certain songs or not editing out mistakes was not an act of laziness and a desire to just get the album done already. It is the way it is because I finally got the songs to the point where I could say, "Yes, that's the song I wrote." I wanted to capture the moments in which the songs were conceived, and those weren't moments of musical perfection. They were moments in which whatever I was experiencing finally burst forth into music and a little bit of my soul expressed itself in the form of words and notes.

That's what I wanted to create with this album: a kind of musical journal, each song a window into the most somber and reflective times of my life in the last few years. It doesn't capture everything, but what it does capture I am happy to share with you. I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Intro to Biblical History Class Info

Introduction to Biblical History
From Abraham to the Church

John Daniel Holloway, III
(804) 908-4535

Course description: This course is designed to be an overview of the history of the people of God, from Abraham’s call to the church’s mission. We will go through the biblical narratives of Israel’s pre-slavery period, their slavery and exodus, their acquisition of the promised land, the development of the monarchy, the separation into two kingdoms, the exile, the return from exile, and then through the second temple period into the time of Jesus, and finally to the church. The objective is for the students to learn the major events of the biblical history, grasping the overarching narrative therein. I aim at being informative in providing a solid understanding of the history of God and his people as revealed in Holy Scripture.

John Daniel’s qualifications: I have a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies from Regent University. I am currently enrolled part-time at Regent’s School of Divinity, working towards my M.A. and am looking forward to doctoral work. I have done a significant amount of study in and out of the classroom, including presenting papers at various conferences. Finally, I have a passion for teaching and a passion for the Bible.

Contact me for Location and Time info

Books required: A Bible, preferably NASB, ESV, NRSV, or NIV. No other text is required. However, research papers will have to include outside sources (which can be provided by the teacher if need be).

Cost of class: $100 per semester. That being said, if you are interested in the class but do not have the funds, please contact me directly as a scholarship might be available. You may also audit certain lectures free of charge.

Course level: I am developing the class to be geared towards Junior-Senior high school students. Adults are also encouraged to sign up. I am open to accepting younger students as their proficiency allows. Just contact me and we may be able to work something out.

Assignments: There will be two research papers per semester, 3-6 pages each (all of which will be submitted via email). There may be quizzes now and then, but they would be on the lighter side as their purpose would only be to make sure everyone is getting the key points. The course will include a mid-term and a final exam, but, again, only for the purpose of making sure everyone has the key points of the class, and so they too won’t be all that elaborate. I aim for this class to be a lighter load than other classes. I want it to be an enjoyable experience in which the students can learn and cherish the stories of the Bible.

Amount of weekly reading: Several Bible chapters

If you want to sign up or if you have questions, just email me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why We Shouldn't Celebrate Independence Day

Last year I didn't celebrate Independence Day because I was travelling. Flying on the 4th of July is cheaper because fewer people want to fly on a holiday.

As it turns out, I'm not celebrating it this year either because I'm travelling again, this time with my wife Debbie to Vienna. While I didn't plan either of these trips this way on purpose, I am somewhat glad I am not celebrating Independence Day.

Why? Because America is not quite a nation of independence. Not yet at least. I'll give you three examples.

1) Human trafficking

Not only is human trafficking a huge problem in the United States and one that receives too little attention, but so much of our daily lives depends upon slave labor. From our electronics to our food to our clothes, we are dependent upon slave labor for a multitude of the commodities we consume.

So, someone shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue finds a note from a desperate Chinese slave in a shoe (see story here).

So, Charoen Pokphand Foods in Thailand uses slave labor to produce shrimp that they then sell to Costco and Walmart (see story here).

I could list story after story. A country whose consumption of commodities depends upon the work of slaves is not a country of independence. We must make serious steps toward the regulation of companies in this area if we are going to call ourselves a free country.

Furthermore, a country that does little to bring justice to the thousands and thousands of slaves oppressed throughout the United States should not call itself a leader of freedom.

2) An Unjust Justice System

Did you know there are places all over the country in which all you have to do to get arrested is to be a minority in a poor neighborhood?

You might have read that and thought, "Ok, seriously? There's got to be more to the stories you're referring to."

Sure, except the "more to the story" actually makes them worse. Read Matt Taibbi's The Divide and see the dozens of examples he provides of poor minorities being arrested for things like "obstructing pedestrian traffic" (a.k.a. walking/standing on the sidewalk).

Life in America for such communities is in no way free, because they are frequently being arrested for absolutely nothing, spending nights in jail or forced to pay fees they can't afford or even simply taken on a people-fishing van ride with the cops for a few hours as the cops pick up a dozen minorities--maybe a few of which are actually criminals--and then are thrown back out on the street, all while being completely innocent.

And this isn't just a few cases. This is life for thousands. And it goes on while white collar criminals neck-deep in all kinds of crime--from fraud, insider trading and money laundering to even things like supporting drug cartel--roam free. (Again, read The Divide).

A country in which this goes on for years and years without any sign of reform should not be called a free country.

3) Taxation without Representation

This last one is not quite realized in our country yet. That is to say, we haven't quite arrived at the "taxation without representation" stage, but in the last few decades we have made significant steps in that direction, and so it warrants mentioning.

Court cases like Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. FEC have made it possible for corporations to support political candidates with unlimited sums of money, essentially telling American corporations that our elections are for sale and if they want to pour millions into politics to have their interests represented, they can do it all they want.

Bribing politicians and manipulating the system is not only fine, but all too common.

And so we have lobbyists who get a paycheck from corporations to be big players in politics, establishing relationships with politicians, and even writing and regulating legislature. Corporations are paying lobbyists to make sure our laws come out in their favor!

With such goings-on, our nation is becoming a plutocracy, in which the wealthiest citizens rule. While I don't think this will result in a transformation of America from a democratic republic to some kind of dictatorship, I do think it will mean we will live in a country where our influence in the government (i.e. voting) is utterly illusory and the real decisions are being made by the rich. 99% of the country will not have representation.

We are already seeing this on a small scale, and if we don't make significant changes, we will only see it get worse.

"Taxation without representation is tyranny," and it's why we started this country in the first place!

Conclusion

I'm not exactly saying don't celebrate Independence Day on the 4th. Celebrate it with an understanding that we have a long way to go before we can be properly considered a nation of independence, and we need to commit to making the changes necessary to bring about that independence.

The signing of the declaration of independence was not a once-and-for-all event that deemed America a nation forever free. A vision of independence was affirmed over America that day, maybe even prophesied, but it was also established as a goal, a goal that has not yet been fully realized.

Let's celebrate Independence Day by remembering our commitment to the vision of freedom and by making our own declaration of pursuing independence.

"But let justice roll down like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!" (Amos 5:24)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: The Nonviolent Messiah by Simon J. Joseph

Joseph, Simon J.  The Nonviolent Messiah: Jesus, Q, and the Enochic Tradition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014. pp.xi-352. ISBN 978-1-4514-7219-6. ★★★★☆

In The Nonviolent Messiah, Simon Joseph makes the case that the nonviolent teaching of Jesus is authentic and should be used as a criterion for determining inauthentic Jesus traditions. His book is a fabulous resource for New Testament/Historical Jesus studies, providing huge chunks of footnotes on each page and 83 pages of bibliography!

In Part 1, Joseph provides a helpful introduction to Jesus and Q studies, including a dialogue with the criteria for authenticity. Following this discussion is a chapter on Jesus' nonviolence, which stands as an exceptional overview of the arguments.

The next chapter deals with divine violence in the Hebrew Bible. His contribution is surface-level as he responds to the different approaches to OT divine violence in typical fashion. He concludes the chapter saying we cannot simply contrast the God of the OT with Jesus, for to do so "undermines the fact that Jesus was Jewish. The historical Jesus' critiques of Jewish individuals, traditions, and institutions were complex Jewish critiques within Judaism."(1) However, he contradicts himself later. He says in chapter 10: "The historical Jesus directly challenges the Jewish biblical tradition of war and violence. Q 6:27-35 introduces a vision of God as loving toward all, undermining traditions in which God is violent and vengeful toward his chosen 'enemies.'"(2) I absolutely agree, but he just told me in chapter 3 that to take this approach would be "not only simplistic and potentially supersessonistic" but also ignorant of Jesus' Judaism!(3)

The final chapter chapter of the section discusses the eschatalogical teaching of Jesus. Joseph finds a contradiction between Jesus' inclusivism/theology of God's love for all and the apocalyptic warnings of judgment and separation. However, I did not find in his treatment an engagement with exactly how this is a contradiction. He merely presents both strands of teaching and expects the reader to see them as contradictory. It seems to be assumed that Jesus' inclusivism and theology of God's love for all necessitates universalism, so that any kind of end times judgment is incompatible. I find this to be flawed. Joseph would do well to engage theological works on eschatalogical judgment, particularly those dealing with free will.

Part 2, on Christology, is quite informative and intriguing. Joseph convincingly shows that Jesus was understood as a messianic new Adam who was pre-existent, and that the New Testament draws significantly from the Enochic material. Compelling and informative though it is, it is difficult to determine exactly how all of it is relevant to the discussion of Jesus as a Nonviolent Messiah. Even the final conclusion of the book seems to lack a central focus, as it begins talking about Jesus' nonviolence and then veers off into how Jesus was understood in the first century.

The final section of Joseph's book wraps up the preceding sections while offering more insights. He contrasts the exclusive Son of God title for Jesus and the inclusive message that following Jesus will result in becoming children of God. The authentic Jesus, Joseph posits, taught that those who love their enemies become children of God--"a radical universal Jewish vision within first-century Palestinian Judaism."(4) Any conflicting portrayals of Jesus should be deemed inauthentic (although, he says this without really explaining why the nonviolent Jesus is historically preferable).(5)

All things considered, The Nonviolent Messiah is a fantastic resource for students or scholars of NT/Historical Jesus studies, not just for the ideas offered, but also for the tons of sources cited. Its technical nature, along with its challenging suggestions, makes it a work which would not appeal to a wide audience. That said, I recommend it to all who are interested.

While insightful from cover to cover, in the end Joseph is, in my opinion, just too sure of his conclusions. Assurance is a luxury I doubt historical Jesus scholars can actually have. Furthermore, he falls prey to either-or thinking, lacking nuance and a respect for the possibility of both-and truth. He wants a consistent Jesus, but as Thomas Merton wondered, "Is reality the same as consistency?" He added: "A god who is fitted into our world scheme in order to make it serious and consistent is not God."(6) Jesus has proven to be the same way. When those around him thought they could figure him out, box him in, systematize him, predict him--he always surprised them. Maybe Jesus was the most subversive person who ever lived, and we can't make him consistent because he will always strike at our concepts of him and our truth claims.

Notes:
(1) Joseph, 70.
(2) Ibid., 216.
(3) Ibid., 70.
(4) Ibid, 225.
(5) See Ibid., 230.
(6) Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable (New York: New Directions, 1964), 31.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How a Pacifist Can Celebrate Memorial Day | Guest Post by Carrie Dedrick

Let’s get something out in the open: I’m a pacifist.

I’m a member of the Church of the Brethren, a denomination established over 300 years ago that believes in pacifism, simple living and fellowship. Our sister denominations, the other “peace churches” are Mennonite and Quaker.

I also love my country.

I’m the daughter of an Air Force veteran, and my cousin just finished his active duty. My parents fly a flag at their house and the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays; I’m the all-American girl.

It’s conflicting.

That’s not entirely true. Most of the time, the love of my country does not conflict with my faith at all. I am a writer by profession, and write news pieces that cover persecution and violation of human rights every day.

I often give thanks that I live in a country where I am free to express my faith and dress how I like without fearing harassment or abuse and pray for those who suffer at the hands of their governments. My writing keeps me aware of the dire situations that people live in all over the globe.

But then Memorial Day comes along.

It’s confusing.

While I am a proud American and deeply appreciate those who serve our country to protect the freedoms we enjoy, I don’t believe in violence at all.

Killing another person seems unnatural, something that no one should ever be able to go through with. It doesn’t make sense that killing people, often known as “peacekeeping forces” will cease violence as many presidents have claimed. How could that work?

When one person kills another, the other side retaliates. That retaliation will lead to another attack. It never happens that after two sides kill, the violence stops. Both sides want to have the last word, so to speak. The murders does not stop until someone waves the white flag in surrender.

Why not wave that white flag at the first sign of violence? But that flag should represent peace, not surrender.

Matthew 5:44 tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

Love?

Yes, love.

What would happen if warring parties ceased fire for a moment to consider their similarities? God made us all different; we are certainly allowed to have different viewpoints and ideas. But what about our human needs for food and water, and a desire to be loved and cared for? To the the similarities, one must look beyond the surface.

There are ways to come to an agreement without fighting. That’s why we were given mouths to speak. Our words can speak the universal language of love and friendship, if we are only willing to use them.

Though it will go against our sinful natures to let an act of hate go unchallenged, that is what our Lord asks of us. Actually, it says in Matthew 5:41-42 to go even beyond acceptance, and offer the person who offends an act of kindness in response. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go two.”

God is telling us to lead our lives in that way. We should strive to walk a separate path than the rest of the world. The path of hatred and anger is the one of least resistance, but do not fall victim to the ease of that path. It is much more difficult to treat others with different opinions with kindness and acceptance, the path we are called to take.

Do not forget that God made those people, just as he made you.

With those feelings of being called to live differently, Memorial Day is difficult.

As I mentioned earlier, I am grateful that the United States has thousands of people who are willing to sacrifice so much to serve. Military men and women can be away from their families for months; they miss seeing milestones like birthdays or a child’s first steps. And they give all this up for me. For you. For the safety and freedom of complete strangers.

But I cannot shake the feeling that there is a better way.

1 Peter 3:11 says, “He [man] must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”

I wish our military could use that scripture to inspire a different method for keeping our freedom. Peace will not come from force.

On Memorial Day, I will thank God for our troops, especially the men and women who have laid down their lives for our nation. We have the freedom to say what we want to say and follow any religion we choose; those military members believed in those rights so strongly, they put their lives on the line and ultimately died to protect them.

But then, I will pray for peace. I will pray for the Lord to shed light upon our dark world.

There are so many stories of people who are suffering at the hands of those who do not know the enduring love of God. I will pray for the victims, but I will also pray for the people who are viewed as monsters in society...the captors of the Nigerian schoolgirls, the Boko Haram, the prison guards who abused American pastor Saeed Abedini, the Sudanese officials who are forcing Meriam Ibrahim to renounce her faith or die, and so many more.

I pray that God will reveal himself to those troubled souls, so they might accept his invitation of love and forgiveness.

This Memorial Day, I implore you to live by the second commandment. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Take a moment to pray for someone aside from friends and family and say a heartfelt prayer for someone who has offended you.

For Jesus made himself clear speaking to his disciples in Matthew 25:40: I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.

Violence will not cease if we do nothing at all. But peace can prevail with the love of God in our hearts and Jesus as our example.

I wish you all a safe and happy Memorial Day.


Carrie Dedrick is a graduate of Bridgewater College, holding degrees in English and Communication Studies. She currently writes for ChristianHeadlines.com. When Carrie is not writing she enjoys running, biking, and cuddling with her two adopted pomeranians. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: "David's Truth in Israel's Imagination & Memory" by Walter Brueggemann

Brueggemann, Walter. David's Truth in Israel's Imagination & Memory. Grand Rapids: Fortress Press, 1985. pp.9-128. ISBN 0-8006-1865-3. ★★★★★

In David’s Truth, Walter Brueggemann tells us up front that he is not concerned with reconstructing the historical David, but rather engages in an exposition of the received David, the David of the biblical narrative: “I do not inquire about facticity, not what happened, but what is claimed, what is asserted here about reality.” (p.14) This distinction runs through most of his work, and is one of the reasons I am so fond of Brueggemann. A reconstruction of Israel’s history is doomed to be inconclusive, as there is so little off of which to make conclusions. Brueggemann sets aside such concerns and moves into how to understand the narrative, in this case how to understand David in the narrative. In doing so, he goes over four different portrayals of the “truth” of David in the biblical narrative: “the trustful truth of the tribe,” “the painful truth of the man,” “the sure truth of the state,” and “the hopeful truth of the assembly.”

When David enters the biblical narrative, he is described with an innocent and uncritical faith in his future. This is the trustful truth of the tribe. It is a celebration of David as the pious chosen one, over against the wicked and rejected Saul. Brueggemann says this trust is naïve in its positivism, but necessary in its hope, as “it tells, generation after generation, that the marginal ones can become the legitimate holders of power. . . . David is a model for the last becoming first.” (p.23)

As we get deeper into the story, we encounter a different voice, one of the painful truth of the man, which is not as unsuspecting as that of the tribe. This perspective pays acute attention to the humanness of David, in his experience of pain, as well as his iniquity. It is an honest portrayal of David the man and his inner experience, one in which death is his constant company, either with David as the sufferer or as the agent.

With literature of kingship, it is never surprising to find political propaganda, which the Davidic narrative suspiciously resembles at times. Brueggemann calls it the sure truth of the state. Whereas the tribe is uncritical because of a naïve hope directed toward David, the state is uncritical because of self-confidence and self-service. These portions of the story were “carefully handled and shaped and managed to serve political interests.” (p.70) This is where we find the Lord declaring over David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). Brueggemann describes it well: “There is, so it is claimed, no circumstance that will cause Yahweh to pull away from David and David’s family . . . [and] there is no way David will permit Yahweh to renege or escape [the promise].” (pp.77, 81)

Yahweh’s promise of “foreverness” over the Davidic dynasty is transformed in the hopeful truth of the assembly. Here, Brueggemann says, an exilic community takes the narrative of David and transforms it into a messianic hope: “this David is an imagined David who is a project of God’s will for the future.” (p.89) Like that of the tribe, this is a thoroughly positive portrayal of David, but it is not uncritical and naïve. Here, David is reimagined to represent “the whole people of Israel who now share in the promise.” (p.96)

Brueggemann’s treatment of the narrative of David is at different points insightful, powerful, challenging, and entertaining. He is a fantastic storyteller. In his storytelling, he makes the author of the narrative a character in the story, even if it sometimes becomes a Brueggemannian construct which lacks (perhaps on purpose) a revealed connection to authorial intent—but that’s one of the things that makes Brueggemann’s postmodern reading of texts so interesting.

Another strong facet of Brueggemann’s postmodern reading is his keen awareness of theological/ideological diversity in Hebrew Bible texts, the lack of which, he says, “tends to turn the Bible into a closed, ideological statement.” (p.98) His categories for understanding the narrative of David are quite helpful, and it is no surprise to me that this work is widely acclaimed.

In his introduction, Brueggemann says, “We may look for ‘the truth’ and find only David. Or we may seek for David and be surprised at meeting the truth.” (p.16) It is a profound statement which rings true. Trusting, innocent readers may search the Davidic narrative in the hopes of hearing from God, and be caught off guard by the humanness of the man and of the narrative. On the other hand, jaded, cynical readers may search it expecting to find humanness, and find amidst it the Word of God. Likewise, I think we may read Brueggemann’s book looking for truth and find only Brueggemann, or we may read it expecting Brueggemann but finding the truth.