Friday, May 29, 2009

A verse & song for the weekend

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (1 Peter 1:3-5)

For the weekend here is a beautiful old hymn of the Church, "My Hope is Built On Nothing Less." It was written by Edward Mote around 1836. It seems appropriate considering all that is happening around us. The song here is sung by Deborah Liv Johnson.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eye problems, Karl Barth, and the proclamation of God's revelation

John Shuck has placed an interesting posting on his blog entitled, Religion without Revelation. That would of course catch my eye since I consider that the only true religion is that revealed through Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father. And Jesus Christ is revealed in the Bible, the word of God, which is the written revelation of God.

Another thing that caught my eye was the quote by Karl Barth I found in John’s posting. My respect for Karl Barth is tremendous as anyone who reads my blog knows. So I took the time to read the posting and then to look up Barth’s quote in his Church Dogmatics.

Now since I am forbidden to write comments on John’s blog I thought perhaps a posting of my own would suffice.

John writes about the historical/critical study of texts and how devastating that is to those who hold that the Bible is God’s revelation. Forgetting that Scripture is both the written words of men and the Holy Spirit inspired words of God, John believes that historical criticism destroys the God part. But instead Scripture is rather like the Lutheran view of communion. That is, as the bread & wine holds the actual body and blood of Christ, the Word of God contains what is both the humanity of its authors, (their personality, culture and knowledge) and yet all is the Word of God.

But the subject that most intrigued me was John’s use of Barth and the quote he took from an article “The Relationship of Biblical Studies to the History of Religions School, with Reference to the Scientific Study of Religion” by Gerd Luedemann. The Barth quote is:

“[The Church] will at least require of its servants, even if there are some who personally cannot understand this ordinance, that they treat their private road as a private road and do not make it an object of their proclamation, that if they personally cannot affirm it and so (unfortunately) withhold it from their congregations, they must at least pay the dogma the respect of keeping silence about it.”

John seems to believe that Barth, when writing this quote, which is in reference to the virgin birth, was advocating keeping silent on doctrines that could no longer be believed because of the work of historical criticism. He writes that Barth knew of this problem. John explains the problem with a question: “The effects of the historical-method on religious texts are far-reaching. Is it even meaningful to speak of "God" with any sense of realism when "God" becomes a literary character in a human drama?”

But a little addition of Barth’s words from his text is helpful. (I will divide up his paragraph for easier reading since they are always long.)

“In this connection we may reply briefly to the question of popular theology, whether in order to believe in a really Christian way ‘one’ would have to believe fully in the Virgin birth. We must answer that there is certainly nothing to prevent anyone, without affirming the doctrine of the Virgin birth, from recognizing the mystery of the person of Jesus Christ or from believing in a perfectly Christian way. It is within God’s counsel and will to make this possible, just as it cannot be at all impossible for Him to bring anyone to the knowledge of Himself even beyond the sphere of the Church visible to us.

But this does not imply that the Church is at liberty to convert the doctrine of the Virgin birth into an option for specially strong or for specially weak souls. The Church knew well what it was doing when it posted this doctrine on guard, as it were, at the door of the mystery of Christmas.

It can never be in favour of anyone thinking he can hurry past the guard. It will remind him that he is walking along a private road at his own cost and risk. It will warn him against doing so.

It will proclaim as a Church ordinance that to affirm the doctrine of the Virgin birth is a part of real Christian faith. It will at least require of its servants, even if there are some who personally cannot understand this ordinance, that they treat their private road as a private road and do not make it an object of their proclamation, that if they personally cannot affirm it and so (unfortunately) withhold it from their congregations, they must at least pay the dogma the respect of keeping silence about it.” (This is the Bromiley and Torrance translation.)

I believe that one of the great sins of leadership in the Church today is that too many elders, pastors and professors are making their own roads the main part of their proclamation. May God have mercy on their flocks and students.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Saving the San Francisco Bay: again

In December of 2008 I posted Be Thou My Vision, High King of Heaven and the San Francisco Bay. Part of that blog posting was about my friend Miles Saunders and the project he is working on called “Saving the Bay.”
Miles is a producer and writer. At that time I highlighted a trailer for the series which will be on PBS. I just received an e-mail with a link to “a revised trailer with a promo clip from Robert Redford and a near final version of the open to Saving the Bay.” He adds, “We’re scheduled to run on KQED San Francisco with two hours on October 8 (8pm to 10pm) and two hours on October 15 (8pm to 10pm)."

Here is the newly revised trailer:

Be sure and watch for this when it is scheduled on your PBS.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Deontology, homosexuality and the Word's of God

Aric Clark and I have had several discussions about a philosophical view or school, as he puts it, of ethics referred to as “Deontology.” That is, ethics understood as acts based on a moral law which must be followed regardless of the consequences. As the Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it, “a deontological theory of ethics is one which holds that at least some acts are morally obligatory regardless of their consequences for human weal or woe.”

Aric first wrote on this subject on his blog. You can begin here with his posting about homosexuality not being a sin. He goes on with his philosophical views from there. He also commented on my blog posting, A Warning. You will have to scroll down to read his comment and my answer.

Aric next wrote me a letter and suggested I might want to continue the discussion. However after reading through again and thinking about it I believe most of my answer still stands. Here are the parts from the letter that I am the most concerned with. (Aric has put my thoughts from my answer in italics.)

"And the most important thought here is the Word of God. We do not obey the Word of God simply because it is a moral command or even because we believe the Bible has authority, but because God’s words have authority. And the Bible is God’s word to us."

It doesn't matter exactly where you place the authority. It still comes down to authority/command/obedience. It is still deontological ethics. And belief absolutely comes into it at every stage. We believe there is a God. We believe God speaks to us. We believe the mechanism of that speech is the Bible.

"But the truth is that it is not compassionate to break the words of God and encourage others to keep habitually sinning."

Notice the rules language here. The problem from your perspective is that people are "breaking the words (rules)" which get their authority from God. You don't say so, but given the context, I'm willing to wager by "sinning" you mean - not following God's commands. This is deontological thinking through and through.

"I believe we all must be molded by God’s word."

In other words, we all must obey God's rules. Deontology.You might feel like this is a lot of semantics, but what I am after is a clear understanding between us of the type of thinking behind our arguments. Too often in polarized subjects like this we argue past one another comparing apples and oranges. If we can agree that the way you and I are coming to our conclusions are specific (very different) modes of thought, we can begin to compare those modalities and see why we differ in this regard. Most likely it will end with neither of us being persuaded of anything, but at least we might understand one another better.

I will also be direct and say that I think that the quality of moral reasoning behind conservative beliefs about homosexuality is in general, very poor. Biblical hermeneutics? Strong. But when it comes to the moral argument, "why is homosexuality evil?" conservatives tend to have very poor answers: "because the bible says so" or "because it is unnatural". These answers are examples of deontological ethics. Worse, they are examples of unreflective deontological ethics. At least Kant was thorough and intentional about his moral reasoning, even if he ultimately came up with an unworkable methodology.

Finally, I will ask a couple preemptive questions. Assuming that you acknowledge that your moral judgment on this issue is a form of deontological ethics, and assuming you likewise acknowledge that you take circumstances and consequences into account when making moral decisions in many areas of your life (for example: deciding how to discipline or reward your children in order to raise healthy human beings).... then we see that you use different moral reasoning methodologies selectively. How do you determine what mode of reasoning you will use for a given moral question? How did you decide that homosexuality called for a deontological approach? In an ideal world would all moral behavior come down to obedience to divine commands? In which case, why hasn't God given us commands sufficient to cover every situation in life?

These are my words to Aric. First off I apologize for not posting the whole letter. It is too long. And it is mainly the last part that I have an objection to.

I came to my faith in Jesus Christ not only by use of reason but because the Holy Spirit opened my heart to God’s word. Some people came to their conversion in a slow process as they grew up in a Christian home. It is almost a natural process and they are often unaware of the change. But for me, and many others, it was different. I read the Bible often as a child, I prayed, but I did not know what it meant to belong to Jesus Christ, to be redeemed. When I became a Christian it was an all at once experience albeit an experience tied deeply to the word of God. Because of the immediate event I became aware of my sudden need to constantly read the Scriptures, and I found them opening to me in a new way. (Although I was only fifteen I was very aware of this change.)

I bring this up because I want to point out that this is more than a cold agreement or disagreement with a moral law. I love philosophy and would love to somehow come at this with you from a philosophical position but I cannot. The way you have put your terms means that you are insisting, as a Christian, that God’s authority is just one of several choices. I as a Christian do not believe I can even begin to argue with you from that point of view.

I obey God’s word because I love Jesus Christ. He is after all my Lord. Once he is Lord—reason is important—after all it was Anselm who wrote, "Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand." But when you simply use God’s word as an example of a supposed moral authority I will not enter into the debate. Because, first must come the debate about God’s word and his authority.

Friday, May 22, 2009


The other night as I was listening to various recordings of Celtic music on U-Tube I started listening to different bagpipe videos. I remembered a wonderful and revealing quote by C.S. Lewis. In one of his academic books, An Experiment in Criticism, he writes about the emotions aroused by music. Picture by Stephen Larson

What Lewis is trying to show is that to be a good critic one must go beyond both the emotions and what he calls the social or organic aspects of the music. That is there is something there that is beyond wanting to join in or feeling the emotion of the melody.

However, Lewis admits that when it comes to bagpipes he also was caught within the seductive sounds. He writes:

"As regards one instrument (the bagpipes) I am still in this condition. I can't tell one piece from another, nor a good piper from a bad. It is all just 'pipes', all equally intoxicating, heartrending, orgiastic."

Since I feel the same way, if I have picked badly or you just don't like bagpipes just ignore this video I have picked and go do something else.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Goddess Spirituality: from a Christian perspective 3

The Christian Answer:
Those involved in goddess spirituality hold some views that should be commended. They value nature and find goodness in the created world. They also attempt to give significance and wholeness to the lives of women. The adherents of goddess spirituality seek out the good experiences of women and attempt to affirm those experiences with ritual; they also provide ritual for the tragedies of life. Unlike many New Age adherents they do not deny the dark side of life, rather they attempt to embrace or make room for the darkness.

But here lies the problem. They do not understand that without the One true Light the darkness overwhelms all of life and in the end brings the creature down into the depths of its darkness.

Nature versus Jesus Christ: Those involved in goddess spirituality see all of nature as deity and envision deity in terms of nature, but Jesus Christ is the final, and complete revelation of God. “In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He [Jesus] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:2,3b) Nature reminds humanity of God's “eternal power and divine nature,”(Romans 1:20) but only Jesus Christ can reveal the very personal loving sacrifice of God for humanity.

The adherents of goddess spirituality seek for the divine in nature, rejecting a transcendent God. They do this because they believe a God who is separate from nature is uninvolved with creation. But scripture teaches that God is both transcendent and immanent. Although, not a part of nature, God is both beyond and involved with creation. The God of Scripture is personal and loves the world, which is His creation.

More then this Jesus Christ is the incarnate one. That is, God came to dwell in human flesh for the sake of humanity. Jesus Christ, fully God, and fully human, came to live and die for humanity. He experienced the darkness that is in the world, by suffering the abuse of others and dying on the cross. In the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ death is not denied but it is overcome. Jesus tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.” (John 11: 25b)

As the poet John Donne so aptly put it, “Death, thou shalt die.” 27 Nature can give some joy, a glimpse of God and finally death. Jesus Christ gives eternal joy and a relationship with God forever.

Christian Ethics Versus The Ethics of Experience: Because goddess spirituality sees all of creation as deity it holds a place for darkness in deity, but in Jesus Christ there is no darkness. (John 1:4,5,9) The Christian's ethical view is to be formed within a relationship with Jesus Christ. The Christian's ethical priority list is based, not on what is experienced in nature nor what is best for nature, but on what the will of God is in Christ. This is set in scripture, the Old and New Testament and has to do with God's will for both humanity and all of creation.

Intertwined over and over in Psalm 119 is both the goodness and mercy of God and the importance of keeping His commandments. And this is the reality of living in Christ; He brings salvation by His death on the cross and we are to live in obedience to Him because of such mercy.

Nature is not left out of Christian ethics, but since it is creation just as humanity is, it is subject to the will of God and waiting also for redemption. (Romans 8:20-24) The biblical mandate is to tend and care for nature, neither worshipping it nor using it as a source of spiritual power. In the same manner men and women in the Christian faith are called to care for one another, not elevating one gender over another but respecting each other. (Ephesians 5:12) Paul touches on this when he tells Timothy to appeal to older men as fathers and younger men as brothers, and also to treat older women as mothers and younger women as sisters. (I Timothy 5:1,2.)

The Christian adhering to scripture is led to absolute truth allowing them to see with clarity the division between light and darkness. Those who elevate nature to the status of deity will fail to find ethical answers for contemporary problems and in the end may find themselves honoring some present day evil that will shatter their world-view.

27 John Donne, “Holy Sonnets,” in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Alexander W. Allison, et al., eds. Revised, (New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 1970), 250.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Goddess Spirituality: from a Christian perspective 2

Goddess beliefs
Mythological History: Herstory: Members of Wicca or Pagan groups accept a different kind of history for their movement. Many call this “herstory” rather than history. According to this view the first civilizations were matriarchal and worshiped a goddess. They believe this was a universal and golden age. The coming of patriarchal warrior societies destroyed the peace of the golden age. Although many members of Wicca groups understand this to be myth they still accept the view as an important foundation for their worldview. 14 Blood Mountain picture by Penny Juncker

Wiccan members, aligning themselves with both the modern and the nineteenth century radical feminist movements, regard many religious texts and past history as patriarchal. Likewise, they view all patriarchy as war-like, domineering and harmful. For many, goddess spirituality is a safe haven from what they perceive as gender-based religions that contribute to the destruction of nature and fail to respect women and nurture life.

The Goddess:
Those involved in goddess spirituality understand the goddess in several different ways, however, she is not considered a personal mother goddess meant to replace a father God. Starhawk gives the classic description of the goddess as understood by most Wiccans and other pagans, “She is reality, the manifest deity, omnipresent in all of life, in each of us. The Goddess is not separate from the world-She is the world, and all things in it: moon, sun, earth, star, stone, seed, flowing river, wind, wave, leaf and branch, bud and blossom, fang and claw, woman and man.” 15

Seeing all reality as deity is, of course, pantheism, however, it should be noted that unlike some forms of Eastern pantheism, most adherents of goddess spirituality believe the material world to be absolutely real. They see their religion as a spirituality that affirms nature. The goddess spirituality is also a polytheistic spirituality because the various ancient goddesses or goddesses of different cultures are seen as the manifestations of the one reality. 16

Resonating with the above definitions is the understanding that the Goddess is those attributes that mark women universally and woman in particular. Carol Christ states, “The symbol of Goddess aids the process of naming and reclaiming the female body and its cycles and processes.” She notes that the “Goddess is celebrated in the triple aspect, [having to do with the aspects of the moon], of youth, maturity, and age, or maiden, mother, and crone.

The “potentiality of the young girl,” is equated with the maiden; the mature aspect corresponds to the mother who gives birth both to children and to creativity. The older woman or crone is, “The wise old woman, the woman who knows from experience what life is about, the woman whose closeness to her own death gives distance and perspective on the problems of life.” 17 So the goddess corresponds to women's basic being and supposedly affirms them in a way that other religions cannot.

The Rituals:
Most adherents of goddess spirituality are deeply committed to celebration, ritual and traditions. Many of the rites of witchcraft include drawing a circle and a ceremony referred to as “drawing down the moon.” Graham Harvey, author of Contemporary Paganism: Listening People Speaking Earth, writes of this, “In ritual the Goddess is `drawn down' into the High Priestess or female leader. Sometimes the God is “drawn down” into the High Priest or male leader.” Harvey explains that in the ritual of drawing down the moon, “The invocation allows that which is already immanent, innate and incarnate to be seen, revealed and experienced. It makes those involved-both invoker and invokee-aware, and permits a shift of consciousness. The Goddess becomes manifestly obvious.” 18 The deity who is everything is revealed in a special way in the rituals of the circle.

The circle drawn in goddess groups is meant as a “sacred space.” Margot Adler in, Drawing Down the Moon, writes that it is “a place where time disappears, where history is obliterated. It is the contact point between two realities.” 19 One of the uses of the circle is to raise energy. It is called, “raising a cone of power.”

Adler writes, “This is done by chanting or dancing (or both) or running around the circle.” She explains that, “The `cone of power' is really the combined wills of the group, intensified through ritual and meditative techniques, focused on an end collectively agreed upon.” 20 The ceremonies may be participated in skyclad, (the nude) or otherwise. Starhawk writes of this: When we take off our clothes, we drop our social masks, our carefully groomed self-images. We become open. The mystical meaning of the naked human body is “truth.” 21

Ethics and Death:
The whole of the material world is seen as a web of life that is interconnected and also as a manifestation of the goddess. So goddess spirituality and ethics are tightly bound together and focused on nature. Nature is the authority, and that kind of authority has its basis in experience, not dogma or rules. As Harvey explains, “Paganism is not a revealed, scriptural, priestly, supernatural or dogmatic religion. Its chief sources of authority are in Nature: the observable cycles of the planet and the experienced cycles of the body.”22 Since nature involves both tragedy as well as the rich joys of being alive, ethics for those who embrace the goddess will include both experiences.

Harvey suggests that just because such things as cancer or violence are in nature does not mean they should be used as imperatives for action.23 Aligning with this is the “the Witch's rule” or “Wiccan Rede:” “An it harm none, do as you will.” However, the goddess is still seen as fang and claw as will as rose and bird call, and with experience providing the real authority there is no stable ground for a defining view of good and evil.

A person's religious world-view usually draws together their moral outlook as well as their view of death. As Harvey writes, “The keynote of Pagan dealings with the dead is the attempt to accept what is natural. Hopes and beliefs about some sort of life continuing beyond death do not entirely overwhelm these concerns.” 24 Goddess spirituality holds both ethics and death in tension.

In her book, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over, Starhawk writes, “Death is not an extinction, a final end. It is transformation, a dissolution of one form so that new forms can be created.” According to the author it is also, “the loss of that consciousness which makes us who we are.” 25 Tied to this are some rather Eastern views about reincarnation, but the point for Starhawk and others is that death is the way nature, seen as the goddess, replenishes her being.

Carol P. Christ, author of Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections on a Journey to The Goddess, explains that Goddess's adherents do not deny death, as she believes the Christian does since the Christian believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Stating her own beliefs she writes, "Death is implicit in life. The cycles of nature include birth, fruition, and decay. We all die so that others may live. This is neither punishment nor sacrifice. It is simply the way things are.” 26

14 This mythological history is outlined and expressed in various books and articles. See, Harvey, Paganism, 72-74; Vicki Noble, “Marija Gimbutas: Reclaiming the Great Goddess,” Snake Power, vol. 1 (October 31), 1989; Denise Lardner Carmody, Women & World Religions, second edition (New Jersey: Prentice Hall 1989), see chapter two, “Women in Primal Societies.”

15 Ibid. 22.

16 See, Judy Harrow, “Explaining Wicca: an Overview of the Teachings of Today's Predominant Form of NeoPaganism,” Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Tradition, no. 48 (Summer 1998), 23. And Harvey, Paganism, 75.

17 Carol Christ, “Why Women need the Goddess,” in Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, Carol P, Christ and Judith Plaskow, Eds. (San Francisco: Harper & Row 1979) 281.

18 Harvey, Paganism, 39.

19 Margot Adler, Drawing Down The Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, Revised and Expanded edition, (Boston: Beacon Press 1986), 109.

20 Ibid.

21 Starhawk, Dance, 60.

22 Harvey, Paganism, 187.

23 Ibid.

24 Harvey, Paganism, 203.

25 Starhawk et al., The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over, (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers 1997), 72.

26 Carol P. Christ, Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections On a Journey To The Goddess, (San Francisco: Harper & Row 1987) 218.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Goddess spirituality: from a Christian perspective

Several weeks ago I posted an article I had written on the religion of Wicca. I am going to follow that up with another related article Goddess Spirituality. I will post it in sections as I did with the Wicca article. The belief in a goddess extends beyond Wiccan covens, and is also a part of many neo-pagan groups and some radical feminist views.

Goddess Spirituality

the beginnings

Most Neo-Pagan groups have some concept of a feminine deity, including the more male centered Heathen groups, such as Odin and Asatru.1 However, Goddess spirituality is the central focus of Wicca, the fastest growing movement in the neo-pagan community.

It is generally Wiccans who have contributed to the neo-pagan's views about the Goddess. In 1979 Starhawk, wrote several descriptions and definitions of the Wiccan view of the Goddess in her book, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of The Great Goddess, seeing her as, “the Mother, the turning spiral that whirls us in and out of existence,” a deity she believes can only be found through love. Such love includes the love of nature, others and ourselves.2

Several groups have contributed to Wicca's focus on goddess spirituality. In the United States the Feminist movement and the Wicca movement are in constant flux, influencing each other with various understandings of deity as feminine. While the radical feminist movement is fragmenting with diverse cultural visions of deity and theology, different Wicca groups also uphold a variety of views about the goddess. With so many movements and religious groups contributing to the development of the Goddess movement the history of goddess Spirituality is complex and filled with myth and speculation.

There is an academic history of the Goddess movement and a religious or mythological history.

In The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, Ronald Hutton provides a well-documented academic history of the movement. 3 He identifies the various groups and movements that contributed to the rise of the Wicca movement with their focus on a feminine deity. Hutton's book is a concise and thoughtful history, bringing together such topics as the Romantic Movement, literature, the Masons and various spiritual and occult groups of the last several centuries.

The history begins in Britain, a quite different location than the mythological version. After developing all the branches that contributed to the movement Hutton focuses on several people who contributed to the more recent development of modern Wicca. He includes a chapter that focuses on four individuals. Hutton writes that “many modern witches,” have “acknowledged,” Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, Robert Graves and Margaret Murray, “as sources of inspiration.”4

Aleister Crowley was an occultist and a magician. His contribution to goddess spirituality was an understanding of the goddess having a triple aspect related to the nature of the moon. This view, very prevalent in Wicca today, sees the aspects as three supposed stages of women's life: maiden, mother and crone. However, for Crowley the vision of the crone, the older woman, was dark and forbidding. He also used some of the same tools in his magical rites as goddess adherents do in their circles today. 5

The second person, Dion Fortune, “incorporated the nineteenth-century vision of ancient matriarchy, by declaring that religion was the preserve of priestesses,” and in a novel “declares that the One God is the source of all nature, but Isis is Nature, and then proceeds to treat her effectively as the only deity.” Hutton writes that Fortune most influenced modern Wicca with her emphasis on the “magical power of polarity and the manner in which the whole world is constructed on binary opposites.” According to Hutton her concept of “female/male” polarity as sublimated “sexual attraction in acts of magic,” was her greatest contribution.6

The third person, Robert Graves, portrays the goddess in her triple form, “Maiden, Mother, and Crone,” in his book, The White Goddess. Graves gives a respectful notice to the Crone aspect of the goddess, but with a strange twist.

Hutton writes that Graves, “found that third, waning-moon personification the most fascinating and alluring of all, as it represented the divine feminine who gives pain and death in order to give reward and new life.” Hutton calls Graves' “fully formed,” picture of the goddess in her triple form “his great gift to modern pagan witchcraft.” 7

The fourth person is Margaret Murray. Hutton writes that, “she appeared to become the first person to provide apparent supporting evidence, based upon systematic research, for the long-rehearsed theory that the victims of the early modern witch trials had been practitioners of a surviving pagan religion.” Murray published her research in The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The God of The Witches. 8 This is one of the mythic views of the history that Hutton disputes in his book.9

The person most often linked to the beginning of modern witchcraft is Gerald Gardner. He was involved in ritual magic and developed rituals and ceremonies that are foundations for various Wicca covens today. Hutton writes that in the late forties Gardner “put together a book of rituals.” This was eventually called The Book of Shadows. While the initial rituals “consisted of a sequence of initiatory rites based on Masonic practice and Crowley, with some novel features, plus a blessing for wine, and set of ceremonies and declarations of theory drawn from existing published sources,” Gardner added to and changed these rituals over time as do other witches and covens today. 10

Hutton notes that some editions to the rituals move from “standard texts of ritual magic” preformed by a male “magician,” to those preformed by “a coven led by a high priestess and high priest. 11 He expands on the shaping of this “new” religion and its emphasis on the goddess explaining that the rites moved from “the nature-goddesses and the horned god who had arisen in the nineteenth century,” to a greater emphasis on the goddess. 12

An event that furthered the dominance of the goddess was the movement of the craft to the United States. Hutton writes that English pagan witchcraft arrived in the states during the “1960s and early 1970s.” He writes that, “America's most distinctive single contribution to that witchcraft,” was “its assimilation to the women's spirituality movement.” 13 American witchcraft in close alliance with radical feminism has largely shaped what is now accepted as goddess spirituality.

1 Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth, (New York: New York University Press 1997), and 84,5.

2 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess, tenth anniversary ed. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 29.

3 Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: a History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, (New York: Oxford University Press 1999).

4 Ibid., 171.

5 Ibid. 179. Quoting Aleister Crowley in The Book of Lies (1913: repr. Samuel Weiser, York Beach, Maine, 1980) 187-8.

6 Ibid. 186.

7 Ibid. 192-94.

8 Ibid. 196.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid. 232.

11 Ibid. 234.

12 Ibid. 235,6.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Graduation: Update

My husband Brad is sick so pictures are coming slowly. But here is the best one and the one we went to Georgia to get. Christopher will be coming to live with us in September and apprentice with his grandpa to become a piano tuner.

His graduation was wonderful. Twelve home schoolers graduated. Each one had a video of their life and their parents to give them advice, praise and their diploma. We sang hymns and each video had a favorite song. My daughter picked "Forever Young" for Christopher. That's a favorite of mine also.

We also had a few hours via the train in Washington D.C.

This is Christopher with his other grandma, Segrid. She is a wonderful lady who until a few years ago taught German at Union College. It was nice visiting with her after all of these years.

Christopher's brothers, Sheldon and Wesley are the guys in the trees. Besides climbing trees Sheldon is a great chess player and Wesley fantastic at soccer.

The last picture is of the train station in Washington D.C.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I'm home. Pictures coming.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A dialogue between a Christian and a Muslim.

While I am gone for two weeks I want to recommend a dialogue on Christianity & Islam. Several videos on the subject are posted at Pure Church The Pastor there is Thabiti Anyabwile and at one time he was a Muslim. This is his testimony:

"I was once a Muslim, and by God's grace I have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. By God's unfathomable grace I am a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in which I hope to serve Him until He returns or calls me home! "

Anyabwile's latest postings are of his part in the dialogue. Scroll down and you will find Bassam Zawadi' explaining who God is for the Muslim and what salvation is about in Islam.

I am sure there will be more postings. This is an excellent dialogue by a Christian and a Muslim who truly believe in their own faith. No dishonesty. This is helpful. Please listen.

I will put the first video with Anyabwile here (It will start with Zawadi) to help you see how interesting this is:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Songs of the Lord on a journey

I just returned late last night from Voices of Orthodox Women’s board meeting. As I was thinking of the trip in preparation for a longer trip by train on Monday I thought of how my traveling was surrounded by the Lord’s music. And I thought of how he is truly Lord over all of our journeys.

The beginning of my trip, and I forgot to tell the other board members this part, so hopefully they will read it here, as we were descending over the Denver airport a voice behind me began singing the Non Nobis. It is related to psalm 113. He sang the Latin, which can be found where it is posted at a u-tube video of King
Henry V.

nobis, Domine, non nobis,
[Not to us, Lord, not to us]
Sed nomini tuo da gloriam.
[But to Thy name give the glory]

Before I left the plane I turned to look behind me and a young man was there. I thanked him for his song and hurried out since others were waiting. I did not see him again.

Devotional time with VOW also included the beautiful hymns of the Church. The first morning we sang, “I Greet Thee, Who my Sure Redeemer Art,” and the second “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

Returning to Sacramento very late; my husband greeted me with a new CD in the car. We hardly talked but listened as he drove. It was from the best of the Prom Praises in Britain. (
online video of Prom Praise) If you are not aware of the Proms in Great Britain, they are a series of concerts in the summer which accumulate into the last night of each type.

They are a joy to attend. I have attended one in London’s Royal Albert Hall. It was an orchestra/piano concert Prom. Another time I attended the last Prom in Oxford. That one was extremely fun, as they played, at the end, Scottish folk music with the audience stomping their feet, and then “Rule Britannica” and “God Save the Queen” with everyone waving small flags and balloons.

But I had not heard of the Praise Proms. One of the songs is “Glory in the Highest” sang to the tune of Pomp & Circumstance March No.1. One of the verses is:

Jesus Christ is Risen, God the Father’s Son!
With the Holy Spirit, you are Lord alone!
Lamb once killed by sinners, all our guilt to bear.
Show us now your mercy, now receive our prayer.
Show us now your mercy, now receive our prayer.

Just think of that sung to the tune of Pomp & Circumstance.

And that wonderful Welch hymn that is the cornerstone of the Welsh Revival, “Here is Love.” The version on the CD has two newer verses written by William Edwards (1842-1929).

Through the years of human darkness,
shone the Lamp the prophets trimmed,
making known redemptions story.
of the love of God undimmed.
Christ for every tongue and nation!
All must come beneath his sway;
His the everlasting kingdom
That shall never pass away.

When the stars shall fall from heaven,
And the sun turn black as night,
When the skies recede and vanish,
And the elements ignite,
Then the Son of Man in glory,
Coming as the Morning Star,
Shall return to claim his loved ones,
Gathered in from near and far.

Jesus Christ is Lord!