Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quotable: Hans Urs von Balthasar

Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance.

- Hans Urs von Balthasar

Friday, December 10, 2010

When Philosophers Tell Jokes

Suppose that someone tells the following story: An Indian at an Englishman's table in Surat saw a bottle of ale opened, and all the beer turned into froth and flowing out. The repeated exclamations of the Indian showed great astonishment. 'Well, what is so wonderful in that?' asked the Englishman. 'Oh, I'm not surprised myself,' said the Indian, 'at its getting out, but at how you ever managed to get it all in.'

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, tran. James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 161.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Kant 101

"The celebrated Locke, for want of due reflection on these points, and because he met with pure conceptions of understanding in experience, sought also to deduce them from experience, and yet proceeded so inconsequently as to attempt, with their aid, to arrive at cognitions which lie far beyond the limits of all experience. David Hume perceived that, to render this possible, it was necessary that the conceptions should have a priori origin. But as he could not explain how it was possible that conceptions which are not connected with each other in the understanding, must nevertheless be thought as necessarily connected in the object--and it never occurred to him that the understanding itself might, perhaps, by means of these conceptions, be the author of the experience in which its objects were presented to it."

Immanuel Kant, Critique of Reason (New York: Barnes and Nobel, 2004), 59.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Politics or Culture?

These are two recent articles worth considering. R.R. Reno writes "Culture Matters more than Politics":
"These days, the ability to talk about politics in a knowing way is treated as a mark of sophistication, so much so, I think, that we’ve come tacitly to regard political analysis as the rightful domain of intelligence. If George Stephanopoulos were to make passing reference to John Milton or Henry James, the TV host would very likely treat it as a joke. But his slightest speculation about Barack Obama’s latest public statements are treated with high seriousness.
It was not always so. Far from indicating effete and irrelevant erudition, the capacity to talk about Jane Austen or T.S. Eliot or James Joyce was once seen as clear indication of a highly developed and socially relevant mind. Literature, theater, film, the visual arts—a certain acquaintance with and command of these domains made people intellectuals. For Lionel Trilling and Jacques Barzun and their readers, debates about novels and poetry seemed more fraught with public significance than the ins and outs of current electoral politics."

"Nightmares about cancerous aliens made Nazi anti-Semitism seem plausible. And today it is the cultural imagination of the Islamic world—not its oil wealth or official foreign policies—that makes the region so volatile.
At the end of the day, elections don’t shape or influence our cultural imaginations. On the contrary, our imaginations influence our elections, as the naive nation builders who thought that bringing elections to Iraq would transform the country discovered, much to their dismay."

Tim Keller responds, "Politics and Culture"
"James D. Hunter has been making the same point for years, though he invokes Nietzsche, rather than Marx. In On the Geneology of Morals, Nietzsche argued that Christian moral claims– of the primacy of love, generosity, and altruism–were really just ways for the early Christians to grab power from the people who had it. Christian morality developed out of the “ressentiment” by the weak of the strong and as an effort to wrest their position from them. This view will also lead to the conclusion that politics is what life is really about.

Hunter argues that ressentiment–”a narrative of injury”–has now come to define American political discourse. Both conservatives and liberals make their sense of injury central to their identity, and therefore in each election cycle it is only the group out of power, who therefore feels the most injured and angry, who can get enough voters out to win the election. Politics is no longer about issues but about power, injury, and anger. How Nietzschean! Hunter goes farther and argues that the Christian Right, the Christian Left, and even the neo-Anabaptist (think Dobson, Wallis, Hauerwas) are “functional Nietzscheans” in the public square, either because they see politics as too all-important, or (as in the case of the neo-Anabaptists) they think wielding political power is inherently non-Christian. In each case, Hunter says, Christians are being too shaped by Nietzsche’s view that politics and power is fundamental."

Yet he concludes,
"Reno and Hunter warn that culture matters more than politics, and I agree with them. We must reject the growing belief that power politics is what really matters. Nevertheless, Christians must not over-react. The government is one of the key institutions among others that reflect and shape the underlying beliefs that are the deepest source of public life. I recently wrote an introduction to a book, The City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era by Michael Gerson and Pete Wehner. The authors plead with Christian readers to not under-value the role of politics in culture-making, even as they acknowledge the danger of over-valuing it. It’s an important plea. James Hunter makes the intriguing case that those Christians who counsel withdrawal from politics may have as nihilistic a view of power as Nietzsche."

[Anytime I can put these tags on a post (Politics, FriedrichNietzsche, TimKeller, Culture), you know I'll like it.]

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Quotable: Balthasar

In a world without beauty—even if people cannot dispense with the word and constantly have it on the tip of their tongues in order to abuse it—in a world which is perhaps not wholly without beauty, but which can no longer see it or reckon with it: in such a world the good also loses its attractiveness, the self-evidence of why it must be carried out. Man stands before the good and asks himself why it must be done and not rather its alternative, evil. For this, too, is a possibility, and even the more exciting one: Why not investigate Satan’s depths? In a world that no longer has enough confidence in itself to affirm the beautiful, the proofs of the truth have lost their cogency. In other words, syllogisms may still dutifully clatter away like rotary presses or computers which infallibly spew out an exact number of answers by the minute. But the logic of these answers is itself a mechanism which no longer captivates anyone. The very conclusions are no longer conclusive. And if this is how the transcendentals fare because on of them has been banished, what will happen with Being itself? Thomas described Being (das Sein) as a ‘sure light’ for that which exists (das Seiende). Will this light not necessarily die out where the very language of light has been forgotten and the mystery of Being is no longer allowed to express itself? What remains is then a mere lump of existence which, even if it claims for itself the freedom proper to spirits, nevertheless remains totally dark and incomprehensible even to itself. The witness borne by Being becomes untrustworthy for the person who can no longer read the language of beauty.

Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: Seeing the Form

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Quotable: Lewis

"One last word. I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one's own faith than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as one that I have just successfully defended in a public debate. For a moment, you see, it has seemed to rest on oneself: as a result, when you go away from that debate, it seems no stronger than that weak pillar. That is why we apologists take our lives in our hands and can be saved only by falling back continually from the web of our own arguments, as from intellectual counters, into the Reality -- from Christian apologetics into Christ Himself. That is also why we need one another's continual help -- oremus pro invicem."*

*Let us pray for each other
C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, 103

Saturday, December 04, 2010

History and John Lennon

I thought this article was interesting: I remember the real John Lennon, not the one airbrushed by history
It was the notion of John Lennon the myth, Lennon the martyr, Lennon the super genius, Lennon the real talent behind the Beatles, Lennon the man who saw through everything, Lennon the avant garde artist and Lennon the gentle, peace loving guy who prayed for the world.

Well, I knew John Lennon, and I liked him a lot. He was very kind and generous to me. I was about to fly out to New York and interview him when I got the call in the middle of the night, UK time, to tell me he’d been shot, so I wept many a tear that day.

But for the past three decades the man I’ve been reading about has grown less and less like the John Lennon I knew and, generally, more and more like some character out of Butler’s Lives Of The Saints.

As an art student John used to draw little cartoons of characters covered in warts. And it sometimes seems that the image of him that has mainly prevailed is one in which his own warts, have been largely air-brushed from public memory by misty-eyed fans, and the efforts of his widow Yoko Ono.

And later,
That he had many good points, there is no doubting. He was witty and funny and the “attitude” that he gave the Beatles chimed perfectly with the baby boomer aspirations of the Sixties. He was clever with words and brilliant at writing songs around slogans he made up, such as Give Peace a Chance and All You Need Is Love, instinctively knowing how to catch the moment and generate a million headlines. And, in association with Paul McCartney, he left the world an unequalled canon of popular songs.

But he was also easily led. It was not clever of him, for instance, to give financial help in 1971 to a self-proclaimed black power leader called Michael Abdul Malik, aka Michael X, who then jumped bail in Britain and fled to Trinidad.

A couple of years later Malik murdered two people on a commune he was running there and was later hanged for his crimes. Lennon couldn’t have known that it would end like that, but he should have been aware, as were many others, that Malik was bad news. Then there was financial help to an Irish Republican movement in the US at the height of the violence in Northern Ireland; not a good idea for a man of peace.

That was John, though, perspicacious in lyric, but, in a life immured by fame, surprisingly easily gulled by those who knew how to flatter him and scratch an ever open guilt wound.

I suspect the song he’s probably best remembered for is Imagine, the lyrics of which many found uplifting, even if the writer of them didn’t exactly practise what he preached. When an old Liverpool friend saw the wealth he’d accumulated in New York and teased him with the lyrics “remember 'no possessions’, John, 'it’s easy if you try’”, the former Beatle’s reply was characteristically, jokingly self-mocking: “It was only a bloody song.”

Friday, December 03, 2010

World's Poverty/Health


The Shadow Scholar

A discouraging article: The Shadow Scholar
I've written toward a master's degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I've worked on bachelor's degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I've written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I've attended three dozen online universities. I've completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America's moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

C.S. Lewis, the cold logician

However, in many cases, moral compromise wasn't the whole story. For example, one friend has had distinctly postmodern misgivings. When his father learned of his decision to leave the faith, he rushed his son a copy of Mere Christianity, hoping the book would bring him back. But C. S. Lewis's logical style left him cold. "All that rationality comes from the Western philosophical tradition," he told me. "I don't think that's the only way to find truth."

The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church

He read the wrong book.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Studies have shown...

...that studies are overrated.

But this is still pretty interesting: Does living in the city age your brain?

"Kobe, Japan (CNN) -- There is a reason more than half the world's population lives in cities, with the number expected to grow. Cities have a lot to offer. Residents can walk to nearby shops and enjoy cultural attractions not available to those in more rural areas. Also, living in a city may make your commute to work much shorter.

Unfortunately, according to health officials from the World Health Organization, that convenience may come with a price -- higher levels of stress and a measurable impact on your brain.

The problem seems to be "attention," or more specifically, the lack of it. With so many different distractions -- from a flashing neon sign, to the cell phone conversation of a nearby passenger on a bus, a city dweller starts to practice something known as "controlled perception." That toggling back and forth between competing stimuli can be mentally exhausting."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


An argument for the value of art, used in the fictional work 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy', proceeds that, should some external force presenting imminent destruction of Earth, ask the inhabitants, of what use is humanity, what should humanity's response be? The argument continues that the only justification humanity could give for its continued existence would be the past creation and continued creation of things like a Shakespeare play, a Rembrandt painting or a Bach concerto. The suggestion is that these are the things of value which define humanity.

LINK: Wikipedia on "Aesthetics"

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Today's news::
"ARLINGTON, Texas – Manny Pacquiao was once again masterful, beating Antonio Margarito so frightfully that Margarito’s face looked as it had been pounded repeatedly by a club."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lewis Roundtable

Really enjoyed this:

Alan Jacobs, ND Wilson, and Doug Wilson in conversation | Full Edition from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Quotable: Chesterton

“One of the strangest examples to which ordinary life is devalued is the example of popular literature, the vast mass of which we contentedly describe as vulgar. The boy’s novelette may be ignorant in a literary sense, which is only like saying that a modern novel is ignorant in the chemical sense, or the economic sense, or the astronomical sense; but it is not vulgar intrinsically — it is the actual center of a million flaming imaginations.”

- G.K. Chesterton

Making Connections

Alan Jacobs is right on here.

This from Tim Burke:
My colleague suggested to me that I had to be responsible first (and last) to my discipline and my specialization in my teaching, that there was something unseemly about the heavy admixture of literature and popular culture and journalistic reportage and anthropology that populates some of my syllabi. I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed as an overall view of higher education in some recent meetings. At a small liberal-arts college and maybe even at a large research university, this strikes me as substantially off the mark. Or at least we need some faculty who are irresponsible to their disciplines and responsible first to integrating and connecting knowledge.

Jacobs's response:
Let me repeat that for you: We need some faculty who are irresponsible to their disciplines and responsible first to integrating and connecting knowledge. This is a precise and concise summation of what I’ve tried to do for many years now. There’s a price to be paid for this kind of thing, of course: expanded interests do not yield expanded time. The day’s number of hours remain constant, and then there's the matter of sleep. So the more I explore topics, themes, books, films — whatever — outside the usual boundaries of my official specialization, the less likely it is that I will read every new article, or even every new book, in “my field.” But, to rephrase Tim’s point as a series of questions, Is the unswerving focus on a specifically bounded area of specialization the sine qua non of scholarship? Is it even intrinsic to scholarship? Is there not another model of scholarship whose primary activity is “integrating and connecting knowledge”?

Quotable: Michael Rosenberg

Michael Rosenberg:
"What I find remarkable is that, if all of this is true, the under-the-table payments are what would upset people the most. I mean, yes, it is against NCAA rules. But in any other segment of society, if a college kid found a way to use his talents to bring in money to support his father's church, he would be a hero. There would be glowing newspaper profiles and probably a few humanitarian awards. If a kid does it in college football, he's a villain."

This is asinine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Keller, "White Paper on Creation, Evolution and Christian Laypeople"

My friend Jon Jordan posted a link to Keller's "White Paper on Creation, Evolution and Christian Laypeople" which is worth a read. Quote:

"In short, if I as a pastor want to help both believers and inquirers to relate science and faith coherently, I must read the works of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people. Someone might counter that this is too great a burden to put on pastors, that instead they should simply refer their laypeople to the works of scholars. But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding the writings of scholars in various disciplines, how will our laypeople do it?"

Qualitative Knowledge and the FDA

Qualitative knowledge (or qualia for short) figures on being a big part of whatever I study in the near future. I thought this article was fascinating because the FDA seems to suggest that a picture communicates more effectively what a label could not. In other words there is a fullness of knowledge which is communicated better with these pictures in spite of their lack of propositional content. Sure this isn't new news. But in the world of epistemology the status of qualitative knowledge is neglected. This is a good example of its value.

Three examples of proposed warning graphics that will appear on cigarette packaging as part of the government's new tobacco prevention efforts, seen in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Why I'm not Getting a Kindle

Quote: LINK
After emailing Amazon about [the lack of page numbers], and, like the previous poster, getting no response, I called. I could not believe the arrogance of Amazon's position on this issue. The customer service representative I spoke with was very argumentative and held firm to the position that academia should "catch up with technology" and Amazon has no responsibility to address the page number issue because page numbers are antiquated. Her response to my concern was inappropriate--I definitely touched a nerve--and also indicated that she had heard this complaint before (probably multiple times). I think Amazon knows all too well about this issue and it doesn't matter to them that they are alienating perhaps the most lucrative market (the academics) they could possible tap in to. If they want to just gear toward causal readers, that's fine I suppose, but it's unfortunate for us and ultimately for them too. I really hope they reconsider their position--the technology is amazing, but the way they are administering it just doesn't work for me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tozer, "To Be or To Do"

Historically the West has tended to throw its chief emphasis upon doing and the East upon being. What we are has always seemed more important to the Oriental; the Occidental has been willing to settle for what we do. One has glorified the verb to be; the other, the verb to do.

Were human nature perfect there would be no discrepancy between being and doing. The unfallen man would simply live from within, without giving it a thought. His actions would be the true expression of his inner being.

With human nature what it is, however, things are not so simple. Sin has introduced moral confusion and life has become involved and difficult. Those elements within us which were meant to work together in unconscious harmony are often isolated from each other wholly or in part and tend to become actually hostile to each other. For this reason symmetry of character is extremely difficult to achieve.

Out of deep inner confusion arises the antagonism between being and doing, and the verb upon which we throw our emphasis puts us in one of the two categories: we are be-ers or we are do-ers, one or the other. In our modem civilized society the stress falls almost wholly upon doing.

We Christians cannot escape this question. We must discover where God throws the stress and come around to the divine pattern. And this should not be too difficult since we have before us the sacred Scriptures with all their wealth of spiritual instruction, and to interpret those Scriptures we have the very Spirit which inspired them.

In spite of all our opportunity to know the truth, most of us are still slow to learn. The tendency to accept without question and follow without knowing why is very strong in us. For this reason whatever the majority of Christians hold at any given time is sure to be accepted as true and right beyond a doubt. It is easier to imitate than to originate; it is easier and, for the time being, safer to fall into step without asking too many questions about where the parade is headed. This is why being has ceased to have much appeal for people and doing engages almost everyone's attention. Modern Christians lack symmetry. They know almost nothing about the inner life. They are like a temple that is all exterior without any interior. Color, light, sound, appearance, motion - these are thy gods, 0 Israel.

"The accent in the Church today," says Leonard Ravenhill, the English evangelist, "is not on devotion, but on commotion." Religious extroversion has been carried to such an extreme in evangelical circles that hardly anyone has the desire, to say nothing of the courage, to question the soundness of it. Externalism has taken over. God now speaks by the wind and the earthquake only; the still small voice can be heard no more. The whole religious machine has become a noisemaker. The adolescent taste which loves the loud horn and the thundering exhaust has gotten into the activities of modern Christians. The old question, "What is the chief end of man?" is now answered, "To dash about the world and add to the din thereof." And all this is done in the name of Him who did not strive nor cry nor make His voice to be heard in the streets (Mat. 12:18-21).

We must begin the needed reform by challenging the spiritual validity of externalism. What a man is must be shown to be more important than what he does. While the moral quality of any act is imparted by the condition of the heart, there may be a world of religious activity which arises not from within but from without and which would seem to have little or no moral content. Such religious conduct is imitative or reflex. It stems from the current cult of commotion and possesses no sound inner life.

The message "Christ in you, the hope of glory," needs to be restored to the Church. We must show a new generation of nervous, almost frantic, Christians that power lies at the center of the life. Speed and noise are evidences of weakness, not strength. Eternity is silent; time is noisy. Our preoccupation with time is sad evidence of our basic want of faith. The desire to be dramatically active is proof of our religious infantilism; it is a type of exhibitionism common to the kindergarten.

A.W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous

ht: Mars Hill

Artifact and Aesthetic Realism

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tolkien on Hitler perverting the northern spirit

Anyway, I have in this War a burning private grudge – which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature: it chiefly affects the mere will). Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.

A private letter of Tolkien LINK

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Kitsch

Milan Kundera,
Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: how nice to see children running on the grass!
The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass!
It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), 251.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quotable: C.S. Lewis

What more, you may ask, do we want? [...] We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want some­ thing else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into our­ selves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”

Exies, "Ugly"

Are you ugly?
A liar like me?
A user, a lost soul?
Someone you don't know
Money it's no cure
A Sickness so pure
Are you like me?
Are you ugly?

We are dirt, we are alone
You know we are far from sober!
We are fake, we are afraid
You know it s far from over
We are dirt, we are alone
You know we are far from sober!
Look closer, are you like me?
Are you ugly?

Ihe Exies, "Ugly," on the album Head for the Door (Virgin Records, 2004).

Quotable: Robert Audi

"The issue of realism is at the heart of metaphysics; that of rationality is at the heart of epistemology. Neither of these issues can be isolated from the other, nor can we separate epistemology and metaphysics. Our account of what there is constrains our theory of rational belief, and hence of rationality in general; and our theory of rational belief constrains our ontological outlook. It may be, however, that philosophers naturally tend to take one or the other of these two philosophical domains, epistemology or metaphysics, or some account developed therein, as primary. If we give priority to epistemology, we tend to produce an ontology that posits the sorts of objects about which our epistemology says we can have knowledge or justified belief; and if we give metaphysics priority, we tend to produce an account of rational belief which allows knowledge or justified belief about the sorts of things our ontology countenances as real."

Robert Audi, "Realism, Rationality, and Philosophical Method," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, Vol 61 No 1 (September 1987): 65-74.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Quotable: Wolterstorff

Our philosophers of art of the past two and a half centuries have not talked about touching and kissing as ways of engaging art; they have not talked about tears in the presence of a sculpture-real tears, I mean. They have talked about art tears.

Wolterstorff, "Why Philosophy of Art Cannot Handle Kissing, Touching, and Crying"

This weeks sign...

...that idiocracy is upon us.

Jackass 3D gets the highest grossing October opening weekend ever. Jackass 3D secures the all time fall single day debut record with 21 million.

September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

- W.H. Auden

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Art and Knowledge States

Before me is a picture of trees and cliffs by the sea, painted in dull grays, and expressing great sadness…The picture is literally gray but only metaphorically sad…But to say that it is sad is metaphorically true even though literally false. Just as the picture clearly belongs under the label ‘gray’ than under the label ‘yellow,’ it also clearly belongs under ‘sad’ than under ‘gray.’

Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1976), pp. 50, 68, 70.

from, Theodore W. Schick Jr. "The Epistemic Role of Qualitative Content" Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Vol. 52, No. 2 (Jun., 1992): 383-393.

Quotable: Kant

Rhetoric, so far as this is taken to mean the art of persuasion, i.e. the art of deluding by means of such beautiful semblance (as ars oratoria), and not merely excellence of speech (eloquence and style), is a dialect, which borrows from poetry only so much as is necessary to win over people's minds to the side of the speaker before they have weighed the matter, and to rob their verdict of its freedom. Hence, it can be recommended neither for the bar nor the pulpit.

Kant, Critique of Judgement, 155

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Rope

Interesting movie on Nietzsche's ubermensch

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quotable: Stott

Of course any contemporary observer who saw Christ die would have listened with astonished incredulity to the claim that the Crucified was a Conqueror. Had he not been rejected by his own nation, betrayed, denied and deserted by his own disciples, and executed by authority of the Roman procurator? Look at him there, spread-eagled and skewered on his cross, robbed of all freedom of movement, strung up with nails or ropes or both, pinned there and powerless. It appears to be total defeat. If there is victory, it is the victory of pride, prejudice, jealousy, hatred, cowardice and brutality. Yet the Christian claim is that the reality is the opposite of the appearance. What looks like (and indeed was) the defeat of goodness by evil is also, and more certainly, the defeat of evil by goodness. Overcome there, he was himself overcoming. Crushed by the ruthless power of Rome, he was himself crushing the serpent's head (Gen 3:15). The victim was the victor, and the cross is still the throne from which he rules the world.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 223-224

Friday, September 17, 2010

Concerning Duchamp

This will probably be of interest to no one in particular, but I wanted to save this thought for future reference.

Duchamp accomplished nothing but showing he could tell a joke, one that wasn't and isn't funny and that no one could possibly get. The interpreter is mocked both if he praises it and if he despises it. He either has elevated it to the aesthetic--which for Duchamp is enraging seeing it is after all just an ordinary object which has aesthetic value only by osmosis--or he has not appreciated its seriousness as art. cf. The End of Art, Donald Kuspit

How long does it take the read the Bible?

John Dyer has the answer: LINK

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Philosophers Do

"If our forms of explanation cannot acknowledge and understand evil, then we will remain opaque to ourselves morally and politically. Here, the philosophical inquiry intersects with practical issues of what to do about the problems of evil that are so pressing in contemporary politics. Philosophy cannot, however, give prescriptions for political or individual action. Philosophers have no particular political expertise, because politics remains an art, a matter of judging the possible within multiple intersecting contexts. This is especially true today, when governments must act simultaneously before domestic and international audiences. Nor can philosophers reach the level of particularity that characterizes the life choices of an individual. Philosophy may help us to understand love and evil, but it cannot tell us whom we should love or whether we should hate.

Philosophers can, however, bring contemporary problems into contact with larger traditions within which our thinking operates. They can help to explain why we see our problems and possibilities as we do. Our perceptions of self and world, of meaning and value, are deeply embedded in the history of Western understandings. We do not make the world anew; we inherit it. We perceive meaning in certain ways because we perceive the world to be of a certain character. The philosopher's role is to clarify this structure of thought."

Paul W. Kahn, Out of Eden, 14-15.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Death of Jesus in Recent New Testament Study, Marshal

This is a good article, very intriguing: LINK

I found this intriguing especially in the context of some comments Dr. Wallace made in class the other day about the centrality of the Deuteronomic curse (Deut 21:22-23) in the development of Paul's theology of salvation. The question was, "how can a man who is so obviously cursed be the Messiah?"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Quotable: Ivan Karamazov

"I understand nothing," Ivan went on, as though in delirium. "I don't want to understand anything now. I want to stick to the fact. I made up my mind long ago not to understand. If I try to understand anything, I shall be false to the fact, and I have determined to stick to the fact."

Keller: What is the Bible About?

ht: Justin Taylor

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Why I hate Advertising

I realized opening the mail today that it's almost gotten to the point that I don't take a central claim of any advertising straightforwardly. Advertising is purposefully deceptive almost 100% of the time. I got a letter from Wells Fargo today which said right at the top:


You have the right to a free credit report from or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law.

It's placed top-center because it gives the impression that "THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW" applies to the entire page. The referent for "THIS" is intentionally ambiguous. The font from the first line is set apart from what is written below it. What is below is an advertising for a $12.99 credit protection service. It took me about 30 seconds to figure out that the letter was in fact an advertisement for a paid service. I'd imagine that a fairly high percentage of subscribers to this service through the letter weren't totally clear on why they were sent the letter or what they were doing in sending it back.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Unicode Λυω Paradigm

LINK: Fill in the blanks on top. If you are wrong the answer will turn red. Unicode so that it will work for everyone. Enjoy!

Also, Gentium is the best unicode Greek font I've found.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Evaluating Descartes, Meditations

What's novel about Descartes is this:
1. The source of wrong belief (evil) is that my will over-extends my understanding.
2. Doubt reins in my will to what is clear and distinct, so that I only act on my understanding.
3. In this way, wrong belief (and evil) are overcome.
4. The assumption is that we should have certainty in our beliefs, God would want that for us.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I carry almost no confidence in my own ability, as evidenced by my constant fearfulness. Yet, I continue to take refuge in it hoping against hope that I can spin my way out of troubles. I need to fear God and take refuge in him.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quotable: Brian at mgoblog

I'll still be there. I don't have a choice, really, but the special kind of misery I'll experience when Michigan plays Ohio State at 8 PM in October and Special K blasts 'Lose Yourself' during a critical review will make me feel like an exploited sap, not a member of a community in which my opinions matter. They clearly don't. This will matter in the same way erosion does.

- Brian, mgoblog

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Put your smartphone down

CNN Story

Putting your phone screen-up on the table is like ordering dessert -- one person does it and everyone else follows suit. Never mind that phones do not belong amidst tableware. As soon as a text pops up or a call comes through, everyone else at the table is trapped in conversational limbo while you have your own digital tete-a-tete.

If you must remain imminently reachable, simply make a big show out of it: "I'm so sorry to have to keep my phone out. Jess is supposed to get here soon, and I don't want to miss her."

The others will get the point. Either that, or they'll stick you with the bill. Don't worry, you'll likely be too distracted by Foursquare to notice.

Manners aside, here's the big danger with packing every spare moment with a cybercheck: Eventually, idle but perfectly interesting moments (sitting on a park bench, people-watching at a café) become excuses to busy yourself with your touch screen.

Remember that iconic New Yorker cover (see below) from last Halloween? Clever, sure. Terrifying, absolutely.

Soapbox, prepare to be climbed: Challenge yourself to go a week without using your data plan. Pretend you're on vacation overseas and can't afford the rate. Turn off Push and Fetch and all the other emphatic verbs that bring inane Facebook updates and new e-mails to your attention like a cat proudly dropping an especially fresh rodent at your feet. Stick to phone calls and texting and check everything else exclusively from a computer.

You'll see passersby, not pixels, when you're riding in a car; squirrels, not a screen, when you're waiting outside to meet a friend. And you'll make the liberating (albeit depressing) discovery that when you fire up your e-mail again, the world has continued to swivel without your immediate viewage of e-coupons from Suave and that cat video from Uncle Bob.

Those are best dealt with when you're at your desk and supposedly working anyway

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Quotable: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Before we move on, it may be worth saying something about “relativism”, according to which no judgments of taste are really better than others. It is common for people to say “There is no right and wrong about matters of taste.” Or people will express the same thought by saying that beauty is “relative” to individual judgment, or even that it is “socially relative.” Such relativism about value of all sorts is part of the Zeitgeist of a certain recent Western cultural tradition. It is part of the intellectual air, in certain quarters. And in particular, many intellectuals have expressed a dislike of the idea that judgments of taste really have any normative claim, as if that would be uncouth or oppressive. However, if we are describing our thought as it is, not how some thing it ought to be, then it is important that philosophers should be persistent and insist – in the face of this Zeitgeist – that normativity is a necessary condition of the judgment of taste. Two points ought to embarrass the relativist. Firstly, people who say this kind of thing are merely theorizing. In the case of judgments of beauty, relativist theory is wildly out of step with common practice. As with moral relativism, one can virtually always catch the professed relativist about judgments of beauty making and acting on non-relative judgments of beauty – for example, in their judgments about music, nature and everyday household objects. Relativists do not practice what they preach. Secondly, one thing that drives people to this implausible relativism, which is so out of line with their practice, is a perceived connection with tolerance or anti-authoritarianism. This is what they see as attractive in it. But this is upside-down. For if ‘it’s all relative’ and no judgment is better than any other, then relativists put their judgments wholly beyond criticism, and they cannot err…What looks like an ideology of tolerance is, in fact, the very opposite.

"Aesthetic Judgment," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Great Ad: Fedex

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

DBH: On Suffering and the Problem of Evil / Strange Vision

I don't share his views on the reformed answer (at least not straightforwardly), but I certainly wouldn't wish to embrace everything reformed people tend to say about how God's sovereignty manifests itself today. At any rate, I enjoy David Bentley Hart and you'll probably see why:

Suffering and the problem of evil from CPX on Vimeo.

Nostalgia for a pagan past from CPX on Vimeo.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Mountains, Mark Lopez

SODT :: MOUNTAINS from Mark Lopez on Vimeo.

Mark Lopez from my small group put this together with some footage from the Smokey Mountains. See his website here. I love to see Christians who are expressing their theology in the arts.

This is a first of many (hopefully) in the series 'Shadows of Divine Things'. They are based on the writings of Jonathan Edwards. He viewed almost everything in the physical world as a 'type' or a representation of something in the spiritual world.

As mountains are not ascended without difficulty and labor, and many rocks and steep places are in the way, so men don't attain to anything eminent or of particular excellence without difficulty. It is against our natural tendency to ascend, but when we get above the clouds and winds, we will enjoy a perpetual serenity and calm. The perfect and uninterrupted calm on a high mountain is a type of the heavenly state.

- Mark

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Quotable: Hart

There is an unsettling prodigality about the beautiful, something wanton about the way it lavishes itself upon even the most atrocious of settings, its anodyne sweetness often seeming to make the most intolerable of circumstances bearable: a village ravaged by pestilence may lie in the shadow of a magnificent mountain's ridge; the marmorean repose of a child lately dead of meningitis might present a strikingly piquant tableau; Cambodian killing fields were often lushly flowered; Nazi commandants occasionally fell asleep to the strains of Bach, performed by ensembles of Jewish inmates; and no doubt the death camps were routinely suffused by the delicate hues of a twilit sky. Beauty seems to promise a reconciliation beyond the contradictions of the moment, one that perhaps places time's tragedies within a broader perspective of harmony and meaning, a balance between light and darkness; beauty appears to absolve being of its violences.

David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 16

The Socratic Curse

But now, Socrates, what do you think all this amounts to? It is mere scrapings and shavings of discourse, as I said a while ago,1 divided into bits; but that other ability is beautiful and of great worth, the ability to produce a discourse well and beautifully in a court of law or a council-house or before any other public body before which the discourse may be delivered, [304b] to convince the audience and to carry off, not the smallest, but the greatest of prizes, the salvation of oneself, one's property, and one's friends. For these things, therefore, one must strive, renouncing these petty arguments, that one may not, by busying oneself, as at present, with mere talk and nonsense, appear to be a fool.

My dear Hippias, you are blessed because you know the things a man ought to practise, and have, as you say, practised them satisfactorily. But I, as it seems, am possessed by some accursed fortune, [304c] so that I am always wandering and perplexed, and, exhibiting my perplexity to you wise men, am in turn reviled by you in speech whenever I exhibit it. For you say of me, what you are now saying, that I busy myself with silly little matters of no account; but when in turn I am convinced by you and say what you say, that it is by far the best thing to be able to produce a discourse well and beautifully and gain one's end in a court of law or in any other assemblage, [304d] I am called everything that is bad by some other men here and especially by that man who is continually refuting me; for he is a very near relative of mine and lives in the same house. So whenever I go home to my own house, and he hears me saying these things, he asks me if I am not ashamed that I have the face to talk about beautiful practices, when it is so plainly shown, to my confusion, that I do not even know what the beautiful itself is. “And yet how are you to know,” he will say, “either who produced a discourse, [304e] or anything else whatsoever, beautifully, or not, when you are ignorant of the beautiful? And when you are in such a condition, do you think it is better for you to be alive than dead?” So it has come about, as I say, that I am abused and reviled by you and by him. But perhaps it is necessary to endure all this, for it is quite reasonable that I might be benefited by it. So I think, Hippias, that I have been benefited by conversation with both of you; for I think I know the meaning of the proverb “beautiful things are difficult.”

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Why Epistemology needs Metaphysics: "What is" needs "What should be"

CNN, Link

When "what is" is all that matters what should be ends up looking very strange. I say strange because Holly Hill's tears remind us that she must overcome the common grace of the conscience to follow her own advice. Perhaps we should take the idea of real moral truth seriously? Perhaps there may be more consequences (some not so fun, some to others, some before God) to this arrangement she and her boyfriend have? But hey, she's happy. Who am I to judge, right?

New York (CNN) -- Could letting your man sleep with another woman help your relationship?

Author and former mistress Holly Hill thinks so.

"One of the main things that I have learned is that a woman that negotiates infidelity with her partner is far more powerful than a woman who is sitting home wondering why he's late from the office Christmas party," she says.

"It's better to walk the dog on a leash than let it escape through an unseen hole in the back fence."

"I thought it was men that would like the book," she says, "But in fact it's women, because what it says to women is that if your man cheats on you, he still loves you, and he's probably running about average."

Allowing their men to stray is a concept that's difficult for most women to contemplate.

But Hill says that if a woman takes the time to truly examine her relationship and considers Mother Nature's unerring spell on men's libidos, she might realize that letting her boyfriend or spouse know she's OK with him having sex elsewhere is a logical way to prevent him from doing it in secret.

"I think that cheating men are normal," says Hill. "Monogamous men are heroes. Monogamy does have a place in relationships, but not on the long-term. Men are hard-wired to betray women on the long-term."

"But psychology professor Lawrence Josephs believes it is more personality type than gender that indicates whether a person might cheat.

People who are higher in narcissim -- whether they are male or female -- are more likely to cheat. People who feel entitled to it, people who have what's called avoidant attachment style where they tend to have more impersonal sex," are more prone to straying, he said.

The professor also said people who experience lower levels of empathy or guilt tend to engage in more infidelity.

Central to the idea of negotiated infidelity, Hill says, is each couple figuring out what their boundaries are. While she admits she shed a few tears at the start of her relationship as she and Dean tested their comfort levels with different arrangements (Dean also says it has definitely been a learning process), they're now very clear about what they will and won't allow.

While Dean has the green light to have sex with other women, he's not permitted to stay overnight. He also can't take his lovers away for romantic weekends. And Hill says she'll have an all-out hissy fit if he spoons another woman.

Diotima's Account of the Birth of Love

Fascinating account of the birth of ερως. I wonder if there is a reason Christian love was always spoken of in terms of αγαπη.
“‘From what father and mother sprung?’ I asked. [203b] “‘That is rather a long story,’ she replied; ‘but still, I will tell it you. When Aphrodite was born, the gods made a great feast, and among the company was Resource the son of Cunning. And when they had banqueted there came Poverty abegging, as well she might in an hour of good cheer, and hung about the door. Now Resource, grown tipsy with nectar—for wine as yet there was none—went into the garden of Zeus, and there, overcome with heaviness, slept. Then Poverty, being of herself so resourceless, devised the scheme of having a child by Resource, [203c] and lying down by his side she conceived Love. Hence it is that Love from the beginning has been attendant and minister to Aphrodite, since he was begotten on the day of her birth, and is, moreover, by nature a lover bent on beauty since Aphrodite is beautiful. Now, as the son of Resource and Poverty, Love is in a peculiar case. First, he is ever poor, and far from tender or beautiful as most suppose him: [203d] rather is he hard and parched, shoeless and homeless; on the bare ground always he lies with no bedding, and takes his rest on doorsteps and waysides in the open air; true to his mother's nature, he ever dwells with want. But he takes after his father in scheming for all that is beautiful and good; for he is brave, strenuous and high-strung, a famous hunter, always weaving some stratagem; desirous and competent of wisdom, throughout life ensuing the truth; a master of jugglery, witchcraft, [203e] and artful speech. By birth neither immortal nor mortal, in the selfsame day he is flourishing and alive at the hour when he is abounding in resource; at another he is dying, and then reviving again by force of his father's nature: yet the resources that he gets will ever be ebbing away; so that Love is at no time either resourceless or wealthy, and furthermore, he stands midway betwixt wisdom and ignorance. The position is this: no gods ensue wisdom or desire to be made wise; [204a] such they are already; nor does anyone else that is wise ensue it. Neither do the ignorant ensue wisdom, nor desire to be made wise: in this very point is ignorance distressing, when a person who is not comely or worthy or intelligent is satisfied with himself. The man who does not feel himself defective has no desire for that whereof he feels no defect.’

Plat. Sym. 203

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Classic Plantinga

"Immanuel Kant was a virtual titan of philosophy, with an absolutely enormous influence upon subsequent philosophy and theology. This is no doubt due to his great insight and raw philosophical power; it is perhaps also due to the grave hermeneutical difficulties that attend study of his work. The British philosopher David Hume writes with a certain surface clarity that disappointingly disappears on closer inspection. With Kant, there is good news and bad news: the good news is that we don't suffer that disappointment; the bad news is that it's because there isn't any surface clarity to begin with."

Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, pg 9


Calvin and Hobbes

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Kendall Payne, Aslan

Really enjoyed this song:

Don't stop your crying on my account
A frightening lion, no doubt
He's not safe, no he's not safe
Are you tempted now to run away?
The King above all Kings is coming down

But He won't say the words you wish that he would
Oh, he don't do the deeds you know that He could
He won't think the thoughts you think He should
But He is good, He is good

I know you're thirsty, the water is free
But I should warn you, it costs everything
Well, He's not fair, no He's not fair
When He fixes what's beyond repair
And graces everyone that don't deserve
No one knows Him whom eyes never seen
No, I don't know Him but He knows me
He knows me, He knows me
Lay down your layers, shed off your skin
But without His incision, you can't enter in
He cuts deep, yeah He cuts deep
When the risk is great and the talk is cheap
But never leaves a wounded one behind

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Piper: Expository Exaltation

Our hearts will not be drawn out to worship if someone just dissects and analyzes the worth and glory of God but does not exult in it before us. Our hearts long for true preaching. Some of us don't even know that is what we are missing.

Like children who grew up in homes where mom and dad never exulted in anything. They never rejoiced or praised or verbally admired and treasured anything. They were always flat and unenthused (except when they got angry). You couldn't tell if anything really moved them deeply and positively. So the kids grow up not knowing what they are missing. That is what many people in the church are like who have never tasted true preaching.

God exists to be worshiped—to be admired and treasured and desired and praised. Therefore, the Word of God is written primarily to produce worship. This means that if that Word is handled like a hot-dish recipe or a repair manual, it is mishandled. And the people will suffer.

The Truth of God begs to be handled with exultation. And our hearts yearn for this and need it. Something in us starts to die when precious and infinitely valuable realities are handled without feelings and words of wonder and exultation. That is, a church starts to die, without preaching.

John Piper

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What of it Mr. Hicks?

Edward Hicks, "The Peaceable Kingdom" (Isaiah 11 and 65)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quotable: O'Donaghue

“Now one main result of the de Lubac revolution (which Balthasar accepted and still accepts) was the devaluation and gradual disappearance of philosophy as the preparation for an in a real sense the basis of theology. This process has coincided with the reaction against the manuals whether philosophical or theological, coincided also with the breakdown of essentialist thinking (ie., discourse by way of clear definition, distinction, and logical demonstration) and the coming of what came to be called Existentialism on the one hand and, on the other, the revival of Nominalism in the shape of Logical Positivism and Linguistic Analysis. In other words, the Platonic-Aristotelian realism of Aquinas and the ‘Scholastic’ tradition came to be ousted by its natural enemies and alternative options, Subjectivism and Nominalism – the one seeing the human subject (as general and common to all men) as the horizon of enquiry and truth, the other refusing to admit any horizon other than that of sense-observation and the words that sound in the ear. So it comes that courses in philosophy in Catholic seminaries and universities today provide nothing like an objective natural ground for revelation but instead provide either an analysis of consciousness or an analysis of language. That mighty theology of man, natural man in his natural integrity (damaged but not destroyed by the Fall), a theology that provides an ethic which no scriptural quotation could overturn, is now in ruins and the way is open to every kind of sane and insane biblical anthropology ranging from that of Bultmannian, who simply affirms the call to transformation, to that of the kind of born-again Christians who would slay all the enemies of the Word of God as he understands it.”

O'Donaghue, "A Theology of Beauty," The Analogy of Beauty, pg. 6

This is one of those paragraphs that fascinates me. It is dense and hard to unpack, but contains so many talking points, so many questions. It is especially relevant for my thesis which is essentially a defense of the an argument from natural theology. I could explain more, but in the words of Christopher Hitchens:
Hugh Hewitt: Now you do not, and this is applicable to his works as well to everyone else you talk about here. You don’t give the reader a break. You’re just assuming they know these books like Money, and that they know these authors like Rushdie, and that they’re familiar with the great works of English literature for the last many hundred years. Did you just have to decide at the beginning you were just going to spare no quarter, and they’re just going to have to catch up?

Christopher Hitchens: Yes, absolutely. And my reason for that is that’s how I know most of what I know, is reading a paragraph in a book, and realizing that I was expected to get a reference there, and I didn’t quite get it, and regarding that as a reproach to myself.

HH: Well, that’s like Adorno to me. I had no idea who this fellow was, and I had to read this with Wikipedia open.

CH: Well, aren’t you glad?

HH: Well, yes I am, but I’m wondering, isn’t that rare these days? Didn’t your editor say you can’t do that, Christopher? People won’t slog through with you?

CH: No, they didn’t. No, there was no, there was no dumbing down, because dumbing down in this case would not have been of me. I mean, I’d have had to find another way of saying what I already know?

HH: Yeah.

CH: It would have been much more boring.

HH: You’re right.

CH: But it would also be very condescending to the readers. I’d rather do anything than patronize people. I’d rather say look, I know this. There’s no reason you shouldn’t. And if you didn’t, don’t complain. I’ve just given you the opportunity to check it out.

HH: Yeah, go check it out.

CH: And I backed myself, saying I think there is a gold standard in writing, and in the world of ideas. And I know something about it, and I’d like to introduce you to it, too.

Quotable: Edwards

“If [Scripture] was made obscure and mysterious, and in many places having great difficulties, that his people might have exercise for their pious wisdom and study, and that his church might make progress in the understanding of it; as the philosophical world makes progress in the understanding of the book of nature, and unfolding the mysteries of it. And there is a divine wisdom appears in ordering of it thus: how much better is it to have divine truth and light break forth in this way, than it would have been, to have it shine at once to everyone without any labor or industry of the understanding. It would be less delightful, and less prized and valued and admired, and would have vastly less influence on men’s hearts, and would be less to the glory of God.”

Edwards, “Miscellanies,” a-500, 426.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Really enjoyed this: LINK

Christopher Hitchens is my favorite atheist.

Quotable: Charles Pierce

"The rise of Idiot America ... is essentially a war on expertise ... In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert."

Charles P. Pierce

ht: Jeff Klein
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 42:1–8 ESV

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


"In the 1980s one Bible teacher thought that he had proof that Christ would return on a certain day in September 1988. He sold two million copies of his book, listing eighty-eight reasons for his beliefs. Many Bible students felt he had convincing arguments in support of his prediction. Some people sold their houses and gave away their money. Some terminated their employment in order to spend all their time getting ready. Some of his followers even had their pets put to death because they did not want to leave them behind when the Lord came. However, the day came and went and nothing occurred."

John Walvoord on Edgar Whisenant's book. (Walvoord, p. 1257, in Understanding Christian Theology)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bonhoeffer in America

There is no theology here. ... They talk a blue streak without the slightest substantive foundation and with no evidence of any criteria. The students--on the average twenty-five to thirty years old--are completely clueless with respect to what dogmatics is really about. They are unfamiliar with even the most basic questions. They become intoxicated with liberal and humanistic phrases, laugh at the fundamentalists, and yet basically are not even up to their level.
Living together day by day produces a strong spirit of comradeship, of a mutual readiness to help. The thousandfold "hullo" which sounds through the corridors of the hostel in the course of the day and which is not omitted even when someone is rushing past is not as meaningless as one might suppose....No one remains alone in the dormitory. The unreservedness of life together makes one person open to another; in the conflict between determination for truth with all its consequences and the will for community, the latter prevails. This is characteristic of all American thought, particularly as I have observed it in theology and the church, they do not see the radical claim of truth on the shaping of their lives. Community is therefore founded less on truth than on the spirit of "fairness." One says nothing against another member of the dormitory as long as he is a "good fellow."
Not only quietness is lacking, but also the characteristic impulse towards the development of individual thought which is brought about in German universities by the more secluded life of the individual. Thus there is litter intellectual competition and little intellectual ambition. This gives work in seminar lecture or discussion a very innocuous character. It cripples any radical, pertinent criticism. It is a more friendly exchange of opinion than a study in comprehension.

Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, pp. 101, 104

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Quotable: Edwards

How happy will that state be, when neither divine nor human learning shall be confined and imprisoned within only two or three nations of Europe, but shall be diffused all over the world, and this lower world shall be all over covered with light, the various parts of it mutually enlightening each other; when the most barbarous nations shall become as bright and polite as England; when ignorant heathen lands shall be stocked with most powerful divines and most learned philosophers; when we shall from time to time have the most excellent books and wonderful performances brought from one end of the earth and another to surprise us ... when we shall have the great advantage of the sentiments of men of the most distant nations, different circumstances, custom and tempers; [when] learning shall not be restrained [by] the particular humor of a nation or their singular way of treating of things; when the distant extremes of the world shall shake hands together and all nations shall be acquainted, and they shall all join the forces of their minds in exploring the glories of the Creator, their hearts in loving and adoring him, their hands in serving him, and their voices in making the world to ring with his praise."

Edwards, "Miscellanies," a-500, 212-13

It is a tragedy that Edwards dream was not realized, that the educated nations would become the most barbarous. This is a legitimate tragedy. It is tempting to scoff at his naivety as if this is the only thing to be learned at such a ridiculous dream. But I wonder if we should instead hang our heads in sadness when we consider how the modern thirst for learning Edwards so obviously embraced turned so viciously on his metaphysical grounding. As science was making its advances who was there to notice the corresponding loss of faith? It is a tragedy that this glorious vision was never fulfilled:

"And they shall all join the forces of their minds in exploring the glories of the Creator, their hearts in loving and adoring him, their hands in serving him, and their voices in making the world to ring with his praise."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quotable: Jonah Lehrer

Karl Popper, the great philosopher of science, once divided the world into two categories: clocks and clouds. Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds.

- Jonah Lehrer, "Breaking Things Down to Particles Blinds Scientists to Big Picture"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Quotable: Christian Smith

The majority of emerging adults . . . have great difficulty grasping the idea that a reality that is objective to their own awareness or construction of it may exist that could have a significant bearing on their lives. In philosophical terms, most emerging adults functionally (meaning how they actually think and act, regardless of the theories they hold) are soft ontological antirealists and epistemological skeptics and perspectivalists-- although few have any conscious idea what those terms mean. They seem to presuppose that they are simply imprisoned in their own subjective selves, limited to their biased interpretations of their own sense perceptions, unable to know the real truth of anything beyond themselves. They are de facto doubtful that an identifiable, objective, shared reality might exist across and around people that can serve as a reliable reference point for rational deliberation and argument. So, for example, when we interviewers tried to get respondents to talk about whether what they take to be substantive moral beliefs reflect some objective or universal quality or standard are simply relative human inventions, many--if not most--could not understand what we interviewers were trying to get at. They had difficulty seeing the possible distinction between, in this case, objective moral truth and relative human invention. This is not because they are dumb. It seems to be because they cannot, for whatever reason, believe in--or sometimes even conceive of--a given, objective truth, fact, reality, or nature of the world that is independent of their subjective self-experience and that in relation to which they and others might learn or be persuaded to change. Although none would put it in exactly this way, what emerging adults take to be reality ultimately seems to consist of a multitude of subjective but ultimately autonomous experiences. People are thus trying to communicate with each other in order to simply be able to get along and enjoy life as they see fit. Beyond that, anything truly objectively shared or common or real seems impossible to access.

Read more

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2011 Economic Collapse

We may have to come to terms with the fact that the future is not brighter than the past. Arthur Laffer writes "If you thought deficits and unemployment have been bad lately, you ain't seen nothing yet."

Read the article

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quotable: James Murphy

“I actually want to write a treatise in defence of pretension… . I think the word pretension has become like the word ironic – just this catch–all term to distance people from interesting experiences and cultural engagement and possible embarrassment. Pretension can lead to other things. You know, the first time I read Gravity’s Rainbow, I did so because I thought it would make me seem cool. That was my original motivation. But now I’ve read it six times, and I find it hilarious and great and I understand it. You can’t be afraid to embarrass yourself sometimes.”

- James Murphy

ht: Alan Jacobs

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Quotable: Steve Jobs

“…we do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone.”

Steve Jobs from a personal email

+1 more reason to buy a Mac

Friday, May 21, 2010

Remember Jonestown, Waco, etc.

picture from Bettman/Corbis (wikipedia):

I thought his photo was powerful (from Jonestown, see also Waco Siege and Greater Ministries). I've been thinking a lot of these types of situations. Why do cults have so much success? Where is the epistemic deficiency? What is the responsibility of Chistian ministers to fight this? What sort of "faith" is dangerous? Living in Texas has opened my eyes to how much I am in agreement (ironically) with Nietzsche about the intellectual conscience:
2. The intellectual conscience.—I keep having the same experience and keep resisting it every time. I do not want to believe it although it is palpable: the great majority of people lacks an intellectual conscience. Indeed, it has often seemed to me as if anyone calling for an intellectual conscience were as lonely in the most densely populated cities as if he were in a desert. Everybody looks at you with strange eyes and goes right on handling his scales, calling this good and that evil. Nobody even blushes when you intimate that their weights are underweight; nor do people feel outraged; they merely laugh at your doubts. I mean: the great majority of people does not consider it contemptible to believe this or that and to live accordingly, without first having given themselves an account of the final and most certain reasons pro and con, and without even troubling themselves about such reasons afterward: the most gifted men and the noblest women still belong to this "great majority." But what is goodheartedness, refinement, or genius to me, when the person who has these virtues tolerates slack feelings in his faith and judgments and when he does not account the desire for certainty as his inmost craving and deepest distress—as that which separates the higher human beings from the lower.

Among some pious people I found a hatred of reason and was well disposed to them for that; for this at least betrayed their bad intellectual conscience. But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors [discordant concord of things] and of this whole marvelous uncertainty and rich ambiguity of existence without questioning, without trembling with the craving and the rapture of such questioning, without at least hating the person who questions, perhaps even finding him faintly amusing—that is what I feel to be contemptible, and this is the feeling for which I look first in everybody. Some folly keeps persuading me that every human being has this feeling, simply because he is human. This is my type of injustice.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quotable: Pollock

One of the aspirations of externalism was to provide an account of justification that fits into a picture of human beings as biological Information processors. This picture views human beings as natural cognitive machines that evolved in response to environmental pressures and whose capacities are oriented toward achieving stability in a changing world. Some may find this conception of humankind depressing or pessimistic. On the contrary, contemporary philosophers tend to consider it a virtue when their views can be made consistent with impressive advances of knowledge about how human beings work. Thus, there has been an effort to make epistemology naturalistic."

Contemporary Theories of Knowledge, Pollock and Cruz, 167

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A New Clue to Explain Existence?

Interesting article,
In a mathematically perfect universe, we would be less than dead; we would never have existed. According to the basic precepts of Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics, equal amounts of matter and antimatter should have been created in the Big Bang and then immediately annihilated each other in a blaze of lethal energy, leaving a big fat goose egg with which to make to make stars, galaxies and us. And yet we exist, and physicists (among others) would dearly like to know why.

ht: Cranach

Bob Kauflin's Thoughts on "The Contemporvant Service"

It's worth reading at his blog.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Do Millennials Read?

Do the Millennials Read? Yes, But They Read Differently:
Jeannie: “Getting Gen Y’s Attention: 101″ “Even if I had the money to buy every textbook I ever needed in college, most of them would have collected dust on my shelves all semester. One could chalk it up to having a typical Millenial attention span –one that understands thoughts in 140 characters or less – but just like my textbooks, I don’t buy that. Part of my complete disinterest in textbooks comes from the fact that the second a book is published today, it is pretty much obsolete. Since I was in fifth grade, I have been able to access almost any information on the Internet more quickly and accurately than I ever could in a textbook. Furthermore, this online information is free (or if it’s not free, I’ll go look on another site until I find it for free). With a limited budget and unlimited free resources, is there any kind of textbook that could ever capture my interest?

Katie Wall: “I Graduated From College Without Ever Checking Out A Book” “That’s right – in May of 2009 I graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a school consistently ranked as one of the best public universities in the country, and never checked out a single book. I’m not saying that UNC-Chapel Hill wasn’t a challenging school – quite the opposite, actually, but for all of the time I spent reading and studying, I never once needed to check out a book from the library. When it came to writing research papers I was able to find everything I needed online…. because of various internet platforms, there were multitudes of valuable resources at my finger tips that once required digging through books and microfiches. The UNC library system had an incredible online database that housed an endless supply of books and scholarly journals, and I suspect that most universities are moving toward making more of their resources available online.”

Perhaps the biggest take away however, is that Millennials are capable of taking in a lot of visual information at once, probably more than older generations, provided it is presented in an attractive and easily digestible way. This makes good design as important, if not more important, than good writing. In studies where we have had an opportunity to compare age groups, it is striking how much more attuned younger consumers are to the way information appears on the page. Older consumers tend to overlook poor design and focus on the meaning. Millennials have a hard time getting past the way it looks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Doug Wilson on Christian Hedonism

ht: Justin Taylor

Given my finite limitations, I have to think about the gifts God gives to me a lot. I have to think about the fact that my feet are not cold anymore, that it is time for dinner, that one of my shoulder blades itches, and so on. To use Lewis’ conceit from the toolshed, I have to spend a lot of time looking at the sunbeams, and a fraction of my time is set aside for direct worship of God, looking along the sunbeam. The temptation we have is that of treating all this as a zero-sum game, assuming that any time spent on the gifts is necessarily time away from the Giver. But though this sometimes happens, it does not need to happen. Rightly handled, a gift is never detached from the one who gave it. Wrongly handled, a gift can be the occasion of selfishness, which is a common problem. But it can also be the occasion of a higher form of selfishness, one which pretends to be above the whole tawdry field of “gifts in themselves.”

Picture a particularly “pious” little child who was impossible to give gifts to, because he would always unwrap it, abandon it immediately, and run up to his parent and say, “But what really counts is my relationship with you!” A selfish child playing with a toy ungratefully is forgetting the giver. This pious form of selfishness is refusing to let the giver even be a giver.

We should not assume that in the resurrection, when we have finally learned how to look along that beam, in pure worship, that our bodies will then be superfluous. God will not have given us eternal and everlasting bodies because we finally got to such a point of spiritual maturity that we are able to ignore them. In the resurrection, we will have learned something we currently struggle with, which is how to live integrated lives. If God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being, it should not be necessary, in order to glorify God, to drop everything. We shouldn’t have to keep these things in separate compartments.

Incidentally, this kind of integration will prevent dislocations from arising in families that are sold out to the glory of God. Integration will keep our neighbor (or wife, or husband, or kids) from feeling like a means to an end. There is a delicate balance here, but God is most glorified in me when I love what He has given to me, for its own sake. This is teleologically related to the macro-point of God’s glory being over all, of course, but we still have to enjoy what He gives, flat out, period, stop. Otherwise, in the resurrection, God will be looking at all the billions of His resurrected saints, standing there contentedly, looking at Him, and He will say, “You know, you people are impossible to shop for.” Which is, of course, absurd and impossible. In the resurrection, it will be possible for us to be absorbed by God’s gifts in ways that are impossible to conceive of now.

Doug Wilson