- Bob Cargill has an article on “The Misuse of Archeology for Evangelistic Purposes,” arguing that biblical scholars have a responsibility to refute quickly the pseudo-scientific claims that people make for ideological or moneymaking purposes. (HT Jim West)
- Internet Monk discusses Jesus junk – all that stuff you find in some Christian book stores (assuming that you ever actually enter such stores). He argues that Christians buy Jesus junk for three reasons: safety, religiosity, and guilt.
- Paul Helm has posted the third article in his series on Kevin Vanhoozer’s Remythologizing God. He also discusses Vermigli’s use of Aristotle in developing his view of human action and responsibility through the concepts of voluntariness and ignorance.
- Kevin DeYoung offers a quote from Timothy Ward’s Words of Life rejecting the idea that we should understand Scripture through an analogy between incarnation and inspiration.
- James McGrath has begun his review of The Historical Jesus with a discussion of Robert Price’s Christ-myth perspective. As expected, he offers an interesting review that points out some fundamental weaknesses in any such position.
- Evangelical Textual Criticism points out a new journal, Student Journal for New Testament Studies, that looks like it could be a good resource to keep an eye on. Those of you doing NT studies may want to check out the submissions guidelines and consider submitting something.
Kent Eilers posted a nice quote from D.H. Williams, warning about the Protestant tendency to emphasize individual Bible reading so much that we end up with individual “popes,” each with their own authoritative interpretation. The quote ends like this:
It is a Pyrrhic victory for Free church Protestantism when the net effect of its teaching results in the replacing of the tyranny of the magisterium with the tyranny of individualism [Retrieving the Tradition, Renewing Evangelicalism (Eerdmans, 1999), p. 201]
You can read the full post and comments over at Theology Forum.
“I’ve just started reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Toward the beginning of the book, they use the analogy of a man riding an elephant to explain human behavior. The man represents our more rational side and the elephant our passionate, emotional side. They go on to explain:
Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Rider’s control is precarious because the rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmached.
This is actually a bit overstated because the authors go on to argue that if the Rider pulls on the reins hard enough, he can get the Elephant to change directions temporarily. But, eventually the Rider will grow tired and the Elephant will go its own way. In other words, we can rationally conclude that X is in our best interests, and exert significant will power to achieve X, but if our passions and emotions really want Y, we’re in trouble. If you’re riding on an Elephant that’s going the wrong way, the solution is not a stronger Rider. The solution is convincing the Elephant that it really wants to go the other way.
What I found particularly interesting about this analogy was the way that they applied it to the use of self-discipline. They pointed to a study that placed two groups of college students in two different rooms, who were told that the researchers were studying “taste.” In each room they placed a tray of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of radishes. One group of students was told to eat several cookies and no radishes; the other group was told to eat several radishes but no cookies. Despite the temptation, and probably because they knew the researchers were watching, the second group resisted the temptation to eat any of the cookies. After a while, the students were informed that the study was done, but they were now invited to participate in another, “unrelated” study. The students were given a puzzle that was impossible to solve. The researchers then counted how many attempts each student made before giving up. The chocolate chip cookie group made an average of 34 attempts (19 minutes) before giving up. The radish group, on the other hand, gave up after only 19 attempts (8 minutes).
Why did they quite so easily? The answer may surprise you: They ran out of self-control. In studies like this one, psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource….The radish-eaters had drained their self-control by resisting the cookies. So when their Elephants, inevitably, started complaining about the puzzle task – it’s too hard, it’s no fun, we’re no good at this – their Riders didn’t have enough strength to yank on the reins for more than eight minutes. Meanwhile, the cookie-eaters had a fresh, untaxed Rider, who fought off the Elephant for nineteen minutes.
So, when we exhort people to change through appeals to their self-discipline, we are actually encouraging them down a road that leads inevitably to exhaustion, frustration, and failure. Instead, they argue that the real path to meaningful change requires educating the rider and motivating the elephant.
This has interesting parallels to the argument that we’ve been following in James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom. Although Smith uses very different language, he is also arguing that the elephant runs the show more than we like to belive. So, instead of focusing all our efforts on educating the rider, we need to train the elephant. And, how do we do that? Liturgies, of course. You train your elephant – your passionate, affective, desiring, side – through regular, formative practices that shape your desires toward good ends.
Right now my elephant is telling me to get some ice cream. I’d resist, but I did that earlier today when my elephant wanted another piece of cake. Clearly my self-control is worn out after all of that elephant-wrestling. So, it’s really out of my hands.
To help whet your appetite for our upcoming book discussion of John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One, here’s a BioLogos clip of Walton talking about why it is important for us to read Genesis as an ancient text and how this will help us discern the “temple” imagery in Genesis 1-2.
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By the way, you should be hearing from Billy on the date, time, and location for that book discussion sometime in the next few days.
(HT Internet Monk)
Since I’ve been posting on writing lately, I thought I’d mention that the winner of the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has been announced. If you’re not familiar with this particular prize, it gets awarded every year to the person who can write the worst opening line to a book. This year’s winner is truly awful:
For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss–a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.
(HT Inside Higher Ed)
- James McGrath will be reviewing The Historical Jesus: Five Views over at Exploring Our Matrix. He’ll be starting with Robert Price, who holds to a Christ-Myth position – i.e. there was no Jesus of Nazareth. That should be an interesting discussion.
- Nijay Gupta has published an 8-page review of Douglas Campbell’s Deliverance of God. The short version is that he enjoyed the book, but in the end did not find Campbell’s reconstruction of justification convincing.
- The SBL conversation continues. John Hobbins and James Crossley have both posted their thoughts on Ron Hendel’s criticism of SBL for allowing “faith” to trump “reason” in biblical scholarship. And, Hendel has now responded to Crossley with a post of his own.
- A recent Gallup poll suggests that church attendance is on the rise on America. I think this would be a good example of why we need to be careful with statistics. As I heard at a recent conference, although it is true that we’ve seen a slight increase in the percentage of people attending church weekly, the percentage of people who never attend church has increased much more quickly. So, although we’re seeing a few more people attend regularly, we’re seeing far more people choose to stay away altogether.
- And, here’s a You Tube clip of Elena Kagan responding to a question about whether the commerce clause gives congress the authority to require all Americans to eat vegetables three times a day.
Mashable has posted 5 You Tube videos demonstrating a variety of unusual ways to use an iPad. The one below was my favorite. If I buy an iPad, will I be able to play the piano like this too?
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Since the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday this year, it raises the question even more pointedly than normal about whether (or how) churches should recognize national holidays in their worship services. For some, celebrating the Fourth of July is an important (almost vital) expression of the fact that we are still in the world and our gratitude for the blessings that come from living in a country like America. For others, this serves as yet another manifestation of the church’s captivity to nationalistic ideals and its inability to realize fully that the Kingdom of God and America are not the same thing. And, I’m sure that many fall somewhere in between.
I got into an interesting discussion with some of the other faculty yesterday about what their respective churches would be doing. The answers spanned a pretty wide range. In one church, the pastor will be preaching on “freedom” from Galatians 5 and will be using the Fourth of July as a segue into that topic. Otherwise, the holiday will not be addressed in the service. In another church, the holiday won’t come up at all. But, several large churches in the Portland area make a very big day out of the Fourth , with services complete with flags, uniforms, and patriotic music.
This also connects with the issue of whether Christian churches should display national flags in their services. Mike Bird blogged on this a couple of weeks ago, calling for n annual “remove flags from your church sanctuary day” and arguing that this is akin to idolatry. Nick Norelli, on the other hand, has argued that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with flags in church and that it’s not idolatry as long as you don’t worship them.
In both cases, the question seems to be about the extent to which churches should or should not participate in public displays of patriotism and/or nationalism. (I think Nick is right that we should be much more careful about throwing around the word “idolatry” in this context.)
What do you think? Are flags and national holidays legitimate in a Christian assembly, should they be banished entirely, or do you have a via media? And, what will your church be doing on Sunday? (Or, if you don’t know, what do you hope that your church will do on Sunday?)
ChristianWritingToday offers another list of suggestions for improving your writing, this time from C. S. Lewis. Here are the eight tips with some of my own thoughts. Read the original post for some other good comments.
- Turn off the radio. I’m not as convinced on this one. I do some of my most creative writing when I have the right kind of music playing in the background. There’s something about good music that helps set the stage for me.
- Read good books and avoid most magazines. I wonder what C.S. Lewis would have said about blogs?
- Write with the ear, not the eye. Make every sentence sound good. If you’re writing for primarily academic purposes, be careful with this one. You can spend way too much time trying to make everything sound just right. But, once you start writing for a broader audience, this becomes far more important.
- Write only about things that interest you. If you have no interests, you won’t ever be a writer.
- Be clear. Remember that readers can’t know your mind. Don’t forget to tell them exactly what they need to know to understand you.
- Save odds and ends of writing attempts, because you may be able to use them later. This will also make you feel better as you go through the editing process. It’s hard to delete something that you worked so hard on, so tell yourself that you’re saving it for later. You probably won’t actually use it, but you’ll be much happier.
- You need a well-trained sense of word-rhythm, and the noise of a typewriter will interfere. I like the sound of a typewriter.
- Know the meaning of every word you use. Pay close attention to this one. There’s a tendency in academic writing to use all the latest “jargon” without a clear understanding of what terms mean. Please don’t.
(HT Tim Challies)
- Matt Flanagan has argued before, along with Nicholas Wolterstorff, that we should understand the cherem language about the total destruction of the Canaanite people in the OT as hyperbolic (akin to an athlete saying, “We totally annihilated the other team”). Ken Pulliam recently argued against this, contending instead that we must understand the cherem literally and that it is one of the most morally reprehensible portions of the Bible. Today, Matt offers a strong (and convincing) rebuttal of Ken’s argument.
- Brian LePort lists 10 books that have surprisingly influenced him over the years. I was a little startled not to see Arius’ Thalia on the list.
- Penn Jillette explains why he and Teller don’t discuss Islam or Scientology on their show, as well as why he thinks Christians have done at least something right.
- Time magazine has listed their Best Blogs of 2010. Sadly, we didn’t make the list.
- And, Matt Mikalatos would like to introduce us to Paul, the psychic octopus who predicts World Cup games.
According to a Yahoo article posted earlier today, FIFA admits to committing one glaring error in the World Cup so far. Not the apparent inability of its referees to make good calls on offsides, goals, or hand balls. No, it’s one mistake was showing the replay of England’s not-goal on the screen in the stadium where people could see it.
FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said Monday that replaying the incident was “a clear mistake.”
“This will be corrected and we will have a closer look into that,” Maingot told a news conference Monday. “We will work on this and be a bit more, I would say, tight on this for the games to be played.”
Maingot said the screens were used to broadcast a FIFA “infotainment program” to fans before the match and could be used to replay some match action.
So, clearly their biggest mistake so far was letting people see it. That’s quality logic.
But, as Jim West pointed out earlier today, here is clear visual evidence that it wasn’t a goal anyway.
Many thanks to James McGrath for pointing out this “Lexicon of Scholarly Usage,” which explains what several common scholarly abbreviations and phrases actually mean. You can see the whole list on his blog, but I thought these were too good to pass up:
- “et al.” = “plus some people I’ve never heard of”
- “c.f.” = “You look it up, I didn’t have time.”
- “etc” = “there may be other examples but I can’t find any.”
- “i.e.” = “or as I should have said in the first place”
- “It is well established” = “Those who think what I think agree with me”
Irenaeus of Lyons died on this day in 195. Since he is best known for his arguments against the gnostic heresies of his day, particularly the version espoused by Valentinus, I thought it would be appropriate to commemorate the anniversary of his death with one of my favorite passages from Against Heresies – The Great Cucumber – in which he mocks gnosticism for its arbitrary and complex hierarchy of divine beings.
There is a certain Proarche, royal, surpassing all thought, a power existing before every other substance, and extended into space in every direction. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd; and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-Emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, since they are one, produced (and yet did not simply produce, so as to be apart from themselves) a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable, and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence, which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-Emptiness, the Cucumber, and the Melon, brought forth the remaining multitude…. (Against Heresies 1.11.4)
According to Kerry Ann Rockquemore, academics commit seven common errors that prevent them from accomplishing their writing goals. This is particularly important now as many of us head into our “summer writing season.” And, all of these apply as well to students working on research papers and theses.
Error 1: You haven’t set aside a specific time for your research. Block out 30-60 minutes in your calendar each day, Monday through Friday, and show up at the appointed time. Treat it with the same level of respect you would a meeting with someone else (start on time, end on time, turn your phone off, and only reschedule for an emergency).
Error 2: You’ve set aside the wrong time for writing. Too many people treat their writing as an activity they “hope” to have time for at the end of the day, after everyone else’s needs have been met. If writing is the most important factor to your long-term success as a scholar, it should be given your best time of your day. If you’re just starting to develop a daily writing routine, try writing first thing in the morning (even if you’re not a morning person).
Error 3: You have no idea how long writing tasks take. The most common complaint I hear from academic writers is that everything takes far longer than expected. Keep track of your time, particularly for repetitive tasks. This will not only give you an accurate assessment of how long writing a proposal, constructing a table, or reviewing the literature actually takes, but it will also help you to set realistic expectations for the future.
Error 4: You think you have to do everything yourself. Ask yourself what tasks must be done by you and what tasks can be delegated to other people. Often there are many writing and research related tasks that can be delegated or outsourced to others (checking citations, proof-reading, editing, etc.). Don’t use “I don’t have a research fund or research assistants” as a reason for doing everything yourself. Sites like ODesk.com and Elance.com can provide quick and incredibly inexpensive assistance on a wide variety of writing tasks.
Error 5: The tasks you have set out are too complex. Take a piece of paper and pencil and map out whatever it is you need to do. When I feel overwhelmed by a big task, I write the big-overwhelming-thing on the right side of the paper and a stick figure (me) on the left side. Then I work my way backwards from the overwhelming thing to myself by asking: What are the steps that need to be accomplished to complete this? I keep breaking it down into smaller and smaller steps until I’ve reached the tasks I can do today. It will also help you to uncover if there are aspects of a project that you don’t know how to do, so you can pinpoint areas where you will need to seek assistance.
Error 6: You can’t remember what you have to do. Make a list. Get all of the things you need to do out of your head and onto a piece of paper in one place. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, electronic, or synced with some gadget or gizmo. A note card, post-it note, or your paper planner will do fine to capture all of your to-do tasks. Start the week with a 30 minute planning meeting where you determine what needs to be done for the week and place each of those items in a specific time block in your calendar. If they don’t all fit (and they won’t), then figure it out how to delegate, delete, or renegotiate the deadlines on the least important items.
Error 7: Your space is disorganized. Set aside time to organize your writing space in a simple and easily maintainable manner. I recommend Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out. It’s a quick read and will help you to develop a simple and sustainable way to organize your office. If you find yourself working on multiple computers and can’t keep your electronic files straight, consider ways that you can either access your other computers when you’re away from them (GoToMyPC) or keep all your computers automatically synced (Mobile Me).
The latest issue of JETS was waiting for me when I (finally) got back from Montreal, and I was pleased to see that it features an article by Ben Johnson, “What Type of Son is Samson? Reading Judges 13 as a Biblical Type Scene.” Ben is a Ph.D. student at the University of Durham and an alum of our Th.M. program. He also posts and comments here occasionally. If you get a chance, check it out.