Magic, Religion and the Kingdom of God

Seven music magicians in the Luke acts 19


This week I’m preaching on Paul and Barnabas in Cyprus and the encounter with Bar Jesus the magician.

The Magicians of Acts

There are three encounters with magicians in the book of Acts. All are highly conflictive. It is also interesting to note that all three magicians are Jewish. This is noteworthy because magic is something that was forbidden in the Mosaic law which locates the Christian Apostles on the side of Moses in opposing these magicians, something obviously important for a new religious tradition claiming to be the authentic heir of the old.

Looking Out from The Empirical Box

The topic of magic and religion is an interesting one. As I work through T.M. Luhrmann’s book “When God Talks Back” what interests me is how she approaches evaluating the Vineyard churches she is studying. She has to fit what she is encountering into a framework and the…

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WHERE THE HOMELESS SHOULD GO: Tiny Houses, Church Sites, and Civil Obligation

The Literary Table

tiny house low res (1).jpg

For the last three days I have been in Seattle Washington exploring with a group of scholars, civil leaders, and non-profit agency workers and volunteers ways to solve homelessness.  I thought I would take a few minutes to write about homelessness where I live in Savannah.

Savannah Georgia has a dramatically large homeless population compared to its population.   According to annual counts by the homeless authority, the number of homeless in Savannah has risen every year for the last three years, most recently up to more than 4600 homeless residents.  There are a number of factors that lead to the rise of homelessness — many of which are systematic and reflect our preferences for single family housing options, tourist occupants, and our disdain for public programs that seek to mitigate the underlying issues leading to homelessness.

One of the more visible projects that has emerged in recent years is…

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A circle with the center everywhere

A Dialogue on Infinity

A collection of quotes:

Hermes Trismegistus, “thrice-great Hermes” “God is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.” Book of the 24 Philosophers.

Alain of Lille “God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere.”

Pascal: “The whole visible world is only an imperceptible atom in the ample bosom of nature. No idea approaches it. We may enlarge our conceptions beyond all imaginable space; we only produce atoms in comparison with the reality of things. It is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere. In short, it is the greatest sensible mark of the almighty power of God that imagination loses itself in that thought.”

Also apparently, “Let him contemplate all nature in its awful and finished magnificence; let him observe that splendid luminary, set forth as an eternal lamp to enlighten the universe; let him…

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Poetic Letter. The quest path

Joëlle Jean-Baptiste – Author

The quest path. Poetic Letter.

The quest path

I will leave my beloved city,

Houses and roofs torn to rip,

Prisoner of the bloodthirsty barbarians,

Desperate, flee in this clear night of pain,

Together, we will leave this gulf,

With our powerful eternal love,

I would write the suffering endured,

To punish those who terrified us,

Long time, fighting without counting,

Caregiver my body trembling and wobbly,

Sometimes martyr or great warrior,

Witness of my monstrous battles,

Follow me, shocked victims,

Behind us our fate crumpled,

Here is the path of our happiness,

Let’s run to our good quest.

Joëlle Jean-Baptiste – Author

Poetic Letter. Inspiration about series. Thanks for your fidelity.

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Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Structure

The Shape of Data

At this point, I think it will be useful to introduce an idea from geometry that is very helpful in pure mathematics, and that I find helpful for understanding the geometry of data sets. This idea is difference between the intrinsic structure of an object (such as a data set) and its extrinsic structure. Have you ever gone into a building, walked down a number of different halls and through different rooms, and when you finally got to where you’re going and looked out the window, you realized that you had no idea which direction you were facing, or which side of the building you were actually on? The intrinsic structure of a building has to do with how the rooms, halls and staircases connect up to each other. The extrinsic structure is how these rooms, halls and staircases sit with respect to the outside world. So, while you’re inside…

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Wizard Earl Gerald: Shapeshifting is Fun until Someone Loses an Eye


“Black magic operates most effectively in preconscious, marginal areas. Casual curses are the most effective” – William S. Burroughs

ghost_earl I knew this Earl thing would go badly… You probably woke up this morning thinking, “It would be great to be a 16th Century Irish Earl.” No? Just me, I guess. Turns out it might not have been such a good gig after all. Sure, it beat being a peasant what with the starvation, poverty, and general lack of hygiene, but it had its share of headaches. Well, beheadings actually, but I figure that’s on the far end of the range of possible headaches. Starting in the 9th Century, you had those pesky Viking raids on the coast of Ireland. From about the 11-14th Century, Norman invasions from England were fairly regular, but declined due to the arrival of the Black Death. Not exactly a good bargain, but…

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Stupid Human Tricks: You’re Different, and I can Tell by Your Uniform


“I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult” – Rita Rudner

weird Maybe now I can get a cameo on the History Channel.

I’m an Olympic channel surfer, a skill honed by years of insomnia.  I wouldn’t mind a relative inability to sleep soundly if I could be productive, but when it’s three o’clock in the morning, and the carnival has once again erupted inside my head, the only thing to do, should I wish to have a small existential footprint and avoid waking the wife and kids, is mindlessly consume the numbing pabulum graciously provided by modern media, from cable television to Twitter.  Luckily, this is highly conducive to reinforcing my interest in cataloging strange phenomena, since we tend to relegate our monsters and mysteries to the wee hours of the dawn.  You certainly don’t want your anomalies loitering about after the sun has…

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