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27 Jul 10:57

Hermeneutical huffery puffery

by Gavin R
What's wrong with this statement?

My methodology is very simple; I will try to interpret Scripture the way that Jesus did. This is precisely what Christians should mean when we speak of interpreting the Old Testament in the light of Christ. Ironically, then, it is no longer old at all, but always fresh and contemporary! If Jesus himself is our interpretive key, it will allow you to take Jewish texts and history more seriously than ever before, and to appreciate the honest context from which Jesus spoke.

So writes Richard Rohr in the Huffington Post (nod to James McGrath who reposted it).

A methodology that's not so simple perhaps?

What about the integrity of the Old Testament writings? In their historical and cultural context?

What of the multitudinous problems in establishing how Jesus interpreted scripture? How does Richard know about this? Is he a gospel literalist clutching a red-letter Bible?

Or the problem of knowing exactly what constituted scripture in Second Temple Judaism? As he surely knows, the Hebrew canon was still in flux then.

How exactly does "Jesus himself is our interpretive key" unpack?

And does Richard actually mean "in light of Paul" instead of Christ (interesting that he doesn't say Jesus)?

Beats me.

Rohr continues:

To take the scriptures seriously is not to take them literally. Literalism is invariably the lowest and least level of meaning. Most Biblical authors understood this, which is why they felt totally free to take so many obvious liberties with what we would call “facts.” In many ways, we have moved backwards in our ability to read spiritual and transformative texts, especially after the enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when religious people got on the defensive and lost their own unique vantage point. Serious reading of scripture will allow you to find an ever new spiritual meaning for the liberation of history, the liberation of the soul, and the liberation of God in every generation. Then the text is true on many levels, instead of trying to prove it is true on just the one simple, factual level. Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love, which is why we call them sacred.

Uh huh... 

"Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love." Nice. But clearly untrue, unless you're prepared to completely redefine 'sacred texts'. "Always"? Our sacred texts include texts of terror in Judges and Revelation, not just the beatitudes. No amount of hermeneutical replastering and wallpapering can change that.

These ancient documents have gathered unto themselves two thousand years of hermeneutical accretions and commentary, granted. But that does not mean that their intended meaning was, in many (most?) cases, anything other than what appears on the surface. The writers and redactors of scripture were, Rohr implies, high-minded literary sophisticates, Iron Age versions of Gore Vidal. 

Sadly this reality seems to have escaped most readers before the nineteenth century. 
27 Jul 12:33

Why millennials are leaving the church

by The Editors

By Rachel Held Evans, Special to CNN

(CNN) At 32, I barely qualify as a millennial.

I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb.

I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first.

I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.

Despite having one foot in Generation X, I tend to identify most strongly with the attitudes and the ethos of the millennial generation, and because of this, I’m often asked to speak to my fellow evangelical leaders about why millennials are leaving the church.

Armed with the latest surveys, along with personal testimonies from friends and readers, I explain how young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I point to research that shows young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.

I talk about how the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules, and how millennials long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.

Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, “So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands. …”

And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.

Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.

Now these trends are obviously true not only for millennials but also for many folks from other generations. Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from forty-somethings and grandmothers, Generation Xers and retirees, who send me messages in all caps that read “ME TOO!” So I don’t want to portray the divide as wider than it is.

But I would encourage church leaders eager to win millennials back to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community.

Their answers might surprise you.

Rachel Held Evans is the author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." She blogs at rachelheldevans.com. The views expressed in this column belong to Rachel Held Evans.


27 Jul 14:35

got questions?- an upcoming sermon series

by Matthew Kelley
At Arlington we'll be starting a series of messages called "got questions?"

We've invited the congregation to submit questions they have about God, the Bible, church, and anything else faith related. We'll pick the most popular/interesting ones and address one each week in worship from August 18 through September.

I want to emphasize address, not answer. We might be able to provide satisfactory answers to why we use particular colors during different liturgical seasons, but we're setting ourselves up for failure if we assume we can answer the problem of evil or the existence of God once and for all. Hopefully we'll all come away from these messages with more insight and better questions than we came in with.

Because we podcast our messages, I want to give the same opportunity to those who aren't with us physically on Sunday mornings. What questions do you have? Or, what questions do you think would be interesting to others? Leave them in the comments below or send them to this address, then tune in to see what we do with your questions.

Speaking of podcasts, here is our latest message on "Rejoicing for the Right Reasons"




You can listen in the player here, on our website, or subscribe to us on iTunes. If you choose the latter option, please take a moment to rate and review us. Thanks!
27 Jul 13:58

Marj Rabba Updates on Galilee Prehistory Project Blog

by Michael Homan
If you are interested in learning more about what's going on at Marj Rabba, where my two Xavier students Alexis Parker and Melissa Nguyen are excavating along with Gilgamesh and me, check out these resources for updates: Marj Rabba is part of the Galilee Prehistory Project. They're blog is here: http://galileeprehistoryproject.org/ Also follow Marj Rabba on facebook.
27 Jul 14:00

Jim Wallis’ Cherry-Picking of the Bible Was Evident on Last Night’s Real Time with Bill Maher

by Hemant Mehta

Last night, “Religious Left” leader Jim Wallis appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher. While the interview started out alright, I kept finding myself disappointed with Wallis’ answers — Maher kept asking him questions that any atheist interested in the Truth would ask, and Wallis kept dodging them in order to make the point that religion can be used for good (which no one is denying and is completely besides the point):

Josh Feldman at Mediaite points out one particular exchange that was really frustrating to watch:

Wallis countered that people who talk about the Bible haven’t exactly read it, though Maher protested he did. Wallis played up how he had a group of religious people rallying for immigration reform in D.C. because of their faith, but Maher interjected to say, “You’re cherry-picking the good parts.”

Maher told Wallis that it’s hard for someone to say God is “perfect” when there’s a lot of twisted morality in the Bible itself.

“It’s pro-slavery, pro-polygamy, it’s homophobic, God in the Old Testament is a psychotic mass murderer — I mean, there’s so many things in it, and I always say to my religious friends, you know, if a pool had even one turd in it, would you jump in?

Wallis explained how he found there to be 2000 verses in the Bible talking about the poor, but two more times Maher called him out for not answering the question. At one point, he quipped to guest Eliot Spitzer, “This guy’s an even better politician than you.”

I want Wallis to be the go-to person for Christianity, and his stances on most social justice issues make him a natural ally for our side, but if this discussion is representative of how he operates, he’s ignoring the tough theological questions for the sake of political correctness.

What really rubbed me the wrong way was when Wallis said (at the 3:48 mark) “Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality at all,” as if he’s always taken this stance against those other Christian bigots.

But Wallis didn’t voice his support for same-sex marriage until just this past April.

In fact, in 2011, Wallis’ group Sojourners rejected ads from an LGBT-friendly church group for their magazine because it wanted to remain “neutral” on the issue. Because advocating for civil rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, was too controversial for them.

So it was nice to see Maher pushing back against Wallis’ cherry-picking. When it comes to current events, Christians like Wallis often have to overcome the Bible. Meanwhile, the rest of us progressives are fighting for many of the same causes by ignoring the Bible altogether. Sure, there were (and still are) great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. who preached the Bible as they saw it, but they could just as easily have come to the same conclusions without it.

Ultimately, Maher was more interested in why anyone would take the Bible seriously and I thought he succeeded in making that point. Wallis did a poor job defending the Bible as a guidebook (usually by avoiding Maher’s questions) and his selective reading of it came through very clearly.

This is why, as much as I want to like him, I just can’t take him very seriously. He’s better than a lot of other Christian leaders, but he still has a long way to go.

He’d get there more quickly if he just admitted the Bible contains more problems than it does solutions.

On a side note, it may disturb some of you to see an all-male panel here — at least that stood out to me. I wanted to point out that Maher interviewed feminist activist Sarah Slamen for a while earlier in the program.

26 Jul 11:03

Gothic Bible: Recent Discovery of new Fragments

by Peter M. Head
Our knowledge of the Gothic Bible in manuscript form rests on seven incomplete manuscripts (acc. to C. Falluomini's chapter in the new Status Quaestionis). In that chapter Falluomini comments: 'no new parts of the Gothic Bible have been found that would have attracted attention to this branch of the biblical tradition' (p. 331). So it is not every day we get new discoveries of portions of the Gothic Bible. Hence it is exciting that a palimpsest bifolium has recently been discovered in Bologna (Italy), containing in its upper text a fragment of Augustine's De Civitate Dei, and in its under text new fragments of the Gothic Bible (I think excerpts from both OT and NT as part of a homily rather than continuous manuscript texts).
They have been published as follows: Rosa Bianca FINAZZI and Paola TORNAGHI, 'Gothica Bononiensia: analisi linguistica e filologica di un nuovo documento' Aevum 87 (2013), 113-155.
Abstract: Recently, in the Archive of San Petronio in Bologna, a palimpsest bifolium has been found out:the upper script contains St Augustine, De civitate Dei, in half-uncial; the lower script is Gothic, apparently written in Northern Italy. The Gothic lower script offers some passages translated into Gothic from the Old and the New Testament, which are up to now unknown and not handed down by the existing Gothic manuscript tradition. The Gothic text of the fragment has been transcribed; an Italian translation has been added. An in-depth linguistic and philological analysis is provided about the script, its origins and date, followed by the examination of the identified biblical passages being compared with the Greek and the Latin versions in order to highlight concurrences and divergences. This kind of analysis has casted new light on some traits of the Gothic language and its vocabulary bringing out terms that were not so far attested  and rare terms as well.
 A summary and photos can be found here; thanks to Jean-Louis Simonet for the tip-off, who added: "it can be underlined that discoveries of Gothic Bible fragments are very rare, and that any improvement of our knowledge of this partially known Bible version is welcome, not only for textual criticism of the Bible, but also for Germanic philology!"

26 Jul 17:32

Why I can’t stay angry (even though I want to)

by Rachel Held Evans

Sometimes I get angry. 

I get angry when a young woman describes what it felt like to watch men stand up and leave the sanctuary when she approached the podium to give her first sermon. I get angry when evangelical leaders show more concern for protecting the powerful at Sovereign Grace Ministries than protecting vulnerable children. I get angry when my most reasoned arguments are dismissed as “emotional” and “shrill” or when people question my commitment to my faith because I accept evolution or support women in ministry. I get angry when confronted with Jamie Wright’s real talk about the sex trade in South East Asia or when a young gay man cries into my shoulder as he recounts being turned away from his church.

I get angry when I overhear people at a restaurant talking about how they hope the verdict in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case will “teach those people to show some respect.”(Yes, this happened.)  I get angry when, like Paul, “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."

(And it’s not just noble stuff either. You should see me when we lose our internet connection.)  

I don’t think  anger is inherently wrong. Anger is part of what it means to be human, to be empathetic, to be engaged, to recognize sin for what it is, to be tenderhearted and vulnerable,  to be awake in this world. Throughout Scripture we encounter a God is angered by injustice and the neglect of the poor.  Jesus expressed anger at those who exploited the poor and vulnerable, who harmed children, and who “shut the door to the Kingdom in people’s faces” through religious legalism and exclusion.   As N.T. Wright has said, “To deny God’s wrath is, at bottom, to deny God’s love. When God sees humans being enslaved… if God doesn’t hate it, he is not a loving God.”  

We are right to be angered by inequity and injustice, whether inflicted upon ourselves or on other people. And we have to be very careful of telling other people—particularly those in the process of healing— when they ought to be angry, when they ought to forgive, or when they ought to “move on.” 

But if Jesus is our example, if being fully human and fully God looks like this carpenter from Nazareth, we know that the evil within ourselves and in this world cannot be conquered by hate but must be overcome with love. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” Jesus says in a particularly annoying part of the Sermon on the Mount, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."

I struggle with this….like, big time. 

A skeptic who is prone to cynicism, and a contemplative who is prone to indulgence, I find myself sinking into a state of bitterness from time to time. I lose hope—in myself, in others, in the Church, in God.  I forget that we know the ending to this story and that it involves a lovely bride and a big banquet, and instead I assume the worst of other people, expecting the worst from this world.   

But I know from experience that bitterness weakens a strong argument. 

It breaks down dialog. 

It gets in the way of change. 

It weighs me down. 

Anger, I think, is meant to wake us up, to provide clarity and direction. It’s meant to be a starting point, the gun that sounds at the start of a race, a catalyst. 

Bitterness lulls us back to sleep. It paralyzes us with “why bother?” and “it’s no use.” It grabs us like a rip tide and pulls us away from shore. Eventually, it drowns us. 

As a wise friend recently said, “Anger is suppose to be a flash fire that burns away the chaff and leaves clarity in its wake. To linger in anger or to make anger and wrath the first choice response is to burn out the humanity within you.”

I recently bumped into a fascinating article about how Martin Luther King Jr. processed and harnessed his own anger, which was certainly justified and certainly real. The article, written by Hitendra Wadhwa back in January, is entitled “The Wrath of a Great Leader,” and it quotes extensively from Dr. King’s autobiography. 

Recalling a particularly frustrating negotiation around the bus boycott in Montgomery, Dr. King wrote that “on two or three occasions I had allowed myself to become angry and indignant. I had spoken hastily and resentfully. Yet I knew that this was no way to solve a problem. 'You must not harbor anger,' I admonished myself. 'You must be willing to suffer the anger of the opponent, and yet not return anger. You must not become bitter. No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must be calm.'"

When his home in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed by white extremists, he wrote: "While I lay in that quiet front bedroom, I began to think of the viciousness of people who would bomb my home. I could feel the anger rising when I realized that my wife and baby could have been killed. I was once more on the verge of corroding hatred. And once more I caught myself and said: 'You must not allow yourself to become bitter'."

“You must not allow yourself to become bitter.”

I’m writing that on a sticky note to put above my desk as we speak. 

Dr. King didn’t tell his followers not to be angry. He told them to turn their anger into constructive (nonviolent) action.  In a 1968 article he said, "The supreme task [of a leader] is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force."

 Or, as Ghandi famously said, "I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power that can move the world." 

As Christians work to find our prophetic voices in this culture, as we engage the world and one another in areas of disagreement, we must take these words to heart. Like it or not, we are called to a higher standard; we are called to forgive, to be peacemakers, to extend grace to those who don’t deserve it. 

And even as I type those words I don’t want to do it—not for Mark Driscoll, not for the folks defending Sovereign Grace, not for those jerks at the restaurant. 

I’ve been thinking lately that the hardest part of fundamentalism for me to leave behind is the part  that equates rightness with righteousness, the part that makes "winning" the goal. 

Because I like winning arguments. 

No, I LOVE winning arguments. 

No, if I could marry winning arguments and cuddle with winning arguments every night while we watched ’30 Rock’ reruns together, I probably would. 

And yet I feel God’s presence most profoundly when I give up—not on making the argument,  but on winning it. I know God’s love with more certainty, not when I’ve proven it, but when I’ve experienced it and when I’ve extended it.  I find the most peace when like Dallas Willard I “practice the discipline of not having to have the last word.” 

It’s possible, I suppose, to win an argument and lose your soul. 

Jesus said we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, and that bugs me because I like people to know I’m wise, that I’m not some naïve girl they can toy with, and I’ve convinced myself that the only way to prove my wisdom is to strike with venom in my teeth, to cause pain. 

But Jesus doesn’t say we are to be naïve. He doesn’t say we are to be stupid as doves or naïve as doves or obnoxiously cheery as doves (no offense to doves here). He says we are to be harmless as doves.  So if I’m going to become this awesome Jesusy-snake-dove creature, I guess I’m going to have to find something else to do with all this venom….like donate it to the antidote bank or something, as snakes do. 

After all, the words Jesus promises at the end of this journey aren’t “Congratulations! You were right!” The words Jesus promises at the end of this journey are, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” 

Good. Faithful. Angry. Hopeful. Wise.  Harmless. Cunning. Gentle. 

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not telling you not to be angry. You may be in an important season of healing in which anger is healthy and important and necessary for growth. 

And I’m certainly not telling you to stop making the case for justice—for women, for LGBT people, for the poor, for the marginalized, for the abused, for yourself. 

I’m telling you why I can’t stay angry, even though sometimes I want to. 

I can’t stay angry because it debilitates me. It makes me unhappy and it makes the people around me unhappy. 

I can’t stay angry because I genuinely believe change is possible, and so I need to practice seeing that capacity for change in myself, in the Church, in those with whom I disagree, even in my enemies. Only then can we draw it out together. 

I can’t stay angry because on good days I believe that love wins. 

And I can’t stay angry because even on bad days I can’t get rid of the stubborn hope that maybe someday this little mustard seed of faith in me will grow into a tree after all. 

Pope Francis recently told the enormous crowds who had gathered in Rio for World Youth Day, “You are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good. To you and all, I repeat: Never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished.”

Reminds me of Jesus' words, "Do not let your hearts be troubled."  

I’m not telling you not to be angry. 

I’m telling you not to give up hope. 

 

26 Jul 22:00

Demon rum

by Andrew Gerns

Mixing religion and alcohol may be dangerous to other people’s health according to a new study of religion, alcohol and violence.

It says that religious people who were not under the influence were the most likely to turn the other cheek among those studied. But religious people who are intoxicated appear to be most likely to be show aggression among intoxicated persons in the study.


The study by the University of Kentucky’s Aaron A. Duke and Peter R. Giancola, published in the latest issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, adds new insight into the complex relation between religion and aggression. It appears that alcohol can release aggression in religious individuals.

The Press Room at the Association of Religion Data Archives:

Religious beliefs and practices in general are associated with more compassionate behavior toward others. A review of the scientific literature by Duke and Giancola found that a majority of survey studies showed religion was associated with lower levels of aggression. In particular, some studies indicated religious individuals are less likely to commit crimes, and that faith may be associated with lower rates of domestic violence.

But there are also times when religion is linked to more aggressive behavior. For example, biblical admonitions warning parents that if they spare the rod, they will spoil the child appear to be associated with higher rates of corporal punishment among religious conservatives.

In the alcohol study, too much booze appeared to not only negate, but to reverse the positive effects of religion in limiting aggression.

26 Jul 23:43

NRA: The imminent Rapture is not imminent

by Fred Clark

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 167-174

During a long, rambling conversation over dessert with Rayford Steele, Hattie Durham reminds her former non-boyfriend that he was always too old for her anyway. “[Buck] and I are closer in age,” she says.

She underscores the point on the following page, saying of Nicolae Carpathia: “He was only about as much older than Buck as Buck was older than I.” At that point I felt like I was reading a word problem from the PSATs (“Rayford is twice as old as Hattie. Nicolae is as much older than Buck as Buck is older than Hattie. If Hattie is 22 years old, what color is the Norwegian’s house?”).

This discussion of the characters’ relative ages got me to thinking about my own age relative to theirs — and that’s a disastrous line of thinking when it comes to the central claim of these books. Buck Williams was 29 years old in the first book of this series, which was published in 1995. In 1995, I was 27 years old, so Buck is two years older than me.

Bladerunner (1982).

That would mean that today, in 2013, Buck is 47 years old. But Buck Williams doesn’t get to live to see 47 because seven years after these books begin, Turbo Jesus comes back and destroys life, the universe and everything. So the world was supposed to end in 2002.

Spoiler alert: The world did not end in 2002.

Heck, in 2002, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins hadn’t even finished writing this series of books.

But wait, that’s not entirely fair. That first book wasn’t set in 1995. It was set in an undefined not-so-distant future. The problem is that the not-so-distance between 1995 and this future is asked to serve two contradictory functions.

On the one hand, this distance must be very, very short because the story begins with the Rapture. LaHaye, like everyone who believes in the idea of the Rapture, believes that it is imminent. Type “Imminent Rapture” into Google and you’ll find hundreds of thousands of results, even though the phrase is redundant. To believe in the Rapture is to believe that it could occur at any second — maybe this very day, maybe this very hour, maybe before you finish reading this post or even this sentence! (Phew — looks like we’re all still here.)

A Rapture-believer like Tim LaHaye cannot provide one of those sci-fi introductions when telling a Rapture story. It cannot be specific, like the first lines of John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape from New York: “In 1988, the crime rate in the United States rises four hundred percent. …” No one knows the day or the hour of when the Rapture will come. But it is undoubtedly imminent. No one knows the day or the hour, but it must always be possible that it is this day and this hour.

The imminence of the Rapture means that this book, published in 1995, also had to, at least in a sense, be set in the world of 1995. The story couldn’t include any elements that would have seemed “futuristic” in 1995 — flying cars, rocket packs, domed cities, cell phones, wi-fi, a black president, etc. All of those would have signaled that the Rapture is not imminent, but some future event still years or even generations away. They would serve to increase the not-so-distance of the book’s future setting, contradicting the imminent-Rapture requirement that this not-so-distance be as short as possible.

The imminent Rapture requires that this story be set in a present that’s just about to happen. That presented Jerry Jenkins with a bit of a dilemma as it took the authors 12 years to finish publishing their narrative of how they believe the final seven years of history will unfold. Jenkins needed to preserve the Rapture’s imminence by avoiding futuristic technological details and only including the technology of the present day, but the present-day technology of 2007 was quite different from the present-day technology of 1995. Jenkins’ cleverly pragmatic response to this problem was simply to incorporate new technologies as they arose while pretending this doesn’t create any anachronistic conflicts between his earlier books and his later ones. So in the first book we have airport pay-phones (ask your parents) and by the third book we have cell phones. That can sometimes be jarring, but I give Jenkins a pass on this because telling a story set in the imminent future is a difficult business.

The one bit of futuristic technology the authors do include in their story is Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig’s Miracle Formula. The chemistry and biology of this seems so unlike anything possible today that the presence of such a formula in our story seems to push its setting decades further into the future, destroying the whole sense that the Rapture it describes might be “imminent.”

I suppose the authors might counter that Rosenzweig’s formula wasn’t so much a scientific breakthrough as it was an actual miracle. Like the Rapture itself, it was an act of divine intervention in the natural world and thus, like the Rapture itself, something that might be regarded as imminent. That’s a bit unsatisfying, though. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, any act of miraculous intervention is indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology.

The larger problem for the authors and for their insistence on the imminence of this story is that their focus on avoiding futuristic technology didn’t extend to an avoidance of futuristic politics. The political world in which Left Behind (1995) is set has as much relation to present-day politics as the technological world of Star Trek has to present-day technology. Peace in the Middle East, for example, is presented as a fait accompli. Israel is said to be at peace with all of its immediate neighbors — a state of affairs the authors describe as somehow involving Israel absorbing all of its immediate neighbors, annexing much of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt without disrupting or disturbing the residents of those countries while also not altering in any way the distinctive identity of Israel as a Jewish nation.

Such a development doesn’t seem particularly imminent. It seems utterly unlikely, if not impossible. For the authors, though, this is something that will and must happen — a fulfillment of what they believe is divine prophecy. They also believe this to be a necessary precondition for the “imminent” Rapture. Let’s play along with that idea as best we can. Forget about 1995, start with today, July 26, 2013. How long do you imagine it would take to get us from where we are today to this prophesied future world of a Greater Israel beloved and unthreatened by those neighbors it hasn’t yet absorbed? Can you imagine this happening in a single decade? A single generation? A single century?

I can’t. And if this development is a prerequisite for the Rapture — if this must be accomplished before the Rapture can occur — then it seems to me that this Rapture cannot be in any way described as imminent. If this is a necessary precursor to the Rapture, then — based on Tim LaHaye’s own rules of “Bible prophecy” — the odds are that we’ll see a colony on Mars long before this “imminent” Rapture could ever occur.

And keep in mind that these books are about prophecy, not playful prediction. If the future they foretell does not come to pass as they foretell it, then these books utterly fail. That is their central claim.

That makes for a very different sort of problem than the fun-but-mistaken discussion of the supposedly failed predictions of science fiction stories. George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1949. I quoted from Escape From New York above, which described a future world of 1988 in which Manhattan had been transformed into a penal colony. The image above is from the 1982 movie Blade Runner, which portrayed the Los Angeles of 2019 (getting close!) as a cramped city wracked by climate disruption and police drones (getting close!). But Blade Runner also predicted “off-world colonies” and androids indistinguishable from their human creators — developments that seem more than six years distant from our present. Or consider one of my favorite books, Infinite Jest, which depicted the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment as a 2009 that wasn’t even called “2009.” David Foster Wallace nearly predicted Netflix, but northern New England hasn’t been transformed into a concavity overrun with mutant feral hamsters, so he loses points for “accuracy” there.

But this game of spot-the-failed predictions misrepresents what those stories are about. They’re not about the future, but about the present. The point wasn’t an attempt to make an accurate prediction about where we are inevitably headed, but a way of using such predictions as a mirror to reflect and examine where we are now. The words on the screen in that still from Blade Runner really mean just the same thing as the words at the beginning of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil: “Somewhere in the 20th Century.” Those stories aren’t predictions about the future, but rather commentaries on the present (and on the perennial).

That’s also true for the alleged source material for the Left Behind series — the apocalyptic literature of the Bible. Apocalyptic literature is not making predictions about the future, but rather it attempts to unveil (“Revelation”) the true reality of the present or perennial human condition. It is prophetic in the sense that, like the prophets, it passes judgment on the world and renders a verdict. But it is not meant to be “prophetic” in the carnival-huckster sense of foretelling future events.

Unfortunately for LaHaye and Jenkins, their books are meant to be predictive “prophecies” in that latter sense. These books are fictional, but they’re meant to provide a fictionalized description of future events that will occur just as described — a kind of historical fiction about the future. That means the standard for accuracy that it would be unfair to apply to 1984 or to Blade Runner must be applied to these books. By fudging on the precise year in which their story is set they don’t allow us to state conclusively that their predictions have failed and that their prophecies have gone unfulfilled. But we can state conclusively that the imminent “Rapture” they continue to prophesy was not and is not and cannot be “imminent.”

This may seem like an overlong response to just a couple of sentences from Hattie in this section of Nicolae, but her whole conversation with Rayford is infused with her nostalgic musing about her past. That past, even as sketchily and carelessly described by Jenkins, is situated in time. Combined, then, with Hattie’s discussion of all the characters’ ages one gets a clearer sense of when the imminent present of this scene is set — and that actually seems to be earlier than 1995.

“Think about it, Rayford. All I ever wanted to be was a flight attendant. The entire cheerleading squad at Maine East High School wanted to be flight attendants. We all applied, but I was the only one who made it. I was so proud. …”

Hattie is supposed to be a member of Generation X, but Jenkins describes her childhood dreams and teenage fantasies using his own Baby Boomer imagination. This seems like something out of the world of Bye Bye Birdie or Mad Men. If Hattie grew up reading Vicki Barr Flight Stewardess books as a child and she’s in her early 20s, then this story can’t be set much later than the Reagan years — 1985 rather than 1995.

Back in 1985, of course, Tim LaHaye was preaching about the same “Bible prophecies” he later fictionalized in 1995 and that he’s still preaching today in 2013. He was preaching that the central focus of every Christians’ life ought to be the Rapture. And the Rapture, he said in 1985, is imminent.

27 Jul 09:20

Darwin’s Doubt in review; Meyer, Matzke, and some of their critics

by Paul Braterman

paul_book_-1Yesterday I wrote about Casey Luskin’s critique of Nick Matzke’s review of Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt, but not everyone knows (why should they?) who Luskin is, or who said what in which way about whom. So I’ve written this brief survey of the dramatis personae, and review of reviews of reviews.

Luskin is Program Officer of the DI’s Center for Science and Culture, of which Meyer is director, Berlinksi a Senior Fellow, and Kenyon a Fellow. According to his bio on the CSC website, he ‘is co-founder of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, a non-profit helping students to investigate evolution by starting “IDEA Clubs” on college and high school campuses across the country.’ His 5 year stint with Scripps Institute of Oceanography produced one publication; he was one of several junior authors on a study of paleaomagnetic dating of sediments, which has attracted 17 citations. So, moderately useful routine work. No life science qualifications or experience.

David Berlinski is a Senior Fellow of the CSC, mathematician and philosopher, and has written serious works in his own area, including a 1972 article on the philosophy of molecular biology. As the review I cited shows, he writes powerfully and amusingly, even when (as here) he is attacking a fictional straw man.

Dean Kenyon is a CSC Fellow. He was at one time a respected biologist, but in the 1970s was converted by Morris’s Genesis Flood to Young Earth Creationism. He was co-author of Of Pandas and People.

Nick Matzke is just finishing the formalities of his PhD at Berkeley,and will be moving to a postdoc at NIMBioS at U. Tennessee Knoxville in September. Web of Knowledge lists him as author of 19 publications, with a total of 330 literature citations to date.

The only other serious reviews of Darwin’s Doubt are this in the New Yorker, “a masterwork of pseudoscience”, and Don Prothero’s shredding on Amazon (this review has attracted three times as many comments on Amazon as the book itself). Donald is the author of over 100 technical publications since 1989, the masterly Evolution; What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters (a much thumbed copy on my bookshelf as I write), half a dozen other popular/semipopular books (including  Abominable Science, due for release in August, on Nessie, Yeti, and other phantasms; but alas no chapter on the Intelligent Designer), and five textbooks, and has received numerous awards for his publications and teaching.

Stephen Meyer, Director of the CSC and Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, holds a joint degree in physics and earth science from Whitworth, a private Christian liberal arts university, and a PhD in the philosophy of science from Cambridge, and has taught at  Palm Beach Atlantic, a faith-based liberal arts college. He is now director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, and author or co-author of a number of works of fiction, including Explore Evolution, a pseudotextbook that shows that the creationists have discovered Batesian mimicry, other works of fiction including Signature in the Cell, and, of course, Darwin’s Doubt. Which is where we came in.


Filed under: Creationism, Evolution in general Tagged: Casey Luskin, Center for Science and Culture, Darwin's Doubt, Discovery Institute, Don Prothero, Intelligent designer, Meyer, Nick Matzke, Stephen Meyer, Young Earth creationism
27 Jul 10:25

Position: Principal of Brisbane School of Theology

by Michael F. Bird
The Brisbane School of Theology (formerly Crossway College) is seeking a new principal to begin January 2014. Here’s the advert: Brisbane School of Theology is a gospel-centred, evangelical and interdenominational Bible college which has trained men and women for ministry and mission for the past 70 years. We invite expressions of interest and applications for [Read More...]
26 Jul 19:23

Steven Moffat promises closure on his Doctor Who storylines THIS YEAR

by Charlie Jane Anders

Steven Moffat promises closure on his Doctor Who storylines THIS YEAR

There are a lot of dangling plotlines on Doctor Who, going back to Matt Smith's first story. Why did the TARDIS blow up? Why were the Silence so keen to kill the Doctor before he answered the First Question? And showrunner Steven Moffat promises that everything will be explained this Christmas.

Read more...

    


27 Jul 11:46

Weekend Roundup

by noreply@blogger.com (Todd Bolen)

The best way to get up to speed on the major discoveries at Hazor from the Bronze Age is with Amnon Ben-Tor’s article on the ASOR Blog.

A brief report of the finds and surprises from the season at Gezer has been written by the excavators.

This year’s excavations of Gath are over, but Aren Maeir is making us wait for a summary of “one of the most productive, interesting and overall great seasons we have had since the project began (in 1996…).” Check out the rest of his blog for season-end photos.

Though most tourists skip Ashkelon, this Haaretz article reveals how the site is “a treasure full to bursting.”

I failed to note previously a couple of articles following up on the discovery of the “palace of David” at Khirbet Qeiyafa. A Baptist Press article provides some balanced coverage. And excavation volunteer Luke Chandler gives his personal perspective.

The theater in Assos is being renovated to accommodate events for up to 5,000 people.

Mark Wilson provides some background for 1 Corinthians 3:17 from the destruction of the Ephesian temple of Artemis.

The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Archaeology is now reduced to $235. It’s currently out of stock, and I don’t know how long the discount will last. (This is an unusually large discount when compared with other Oxford sets such as OAENE, OEAGR, and OEBB.)

HT: Jack Sasson

Assos theater and acropolis from below, tb041605082

The theater and acropolis of Assos
Photo from the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands, Western Turkey

26 Jul 12:00

Publishing Your Dissertation Online: What’s a New Ph.D. to Do?

by Adeline Koh

Early this week, the American Historical Association (AHA) released a controversial statement that strongly advised graduate programs and libraries to adopt a policy allowing the embargoing of the publication of completed dissertations online for up to six years. The statement has generated much praise and much criticism. Supporters of the statement argue that it protects junior authors, given that in the current academic climate a completed, published, single-authored monograph continues to be the standard for tenure and promotion in fields like history. Opponents of the statement counter with several arguments: that making the dissertation research public, rather than keeping it embargoed for years, allows the junior scholar to gain credit for his or her work; that the revision necessary to turn a dissertation into a book makes the two significantly different scholarly works; and finally, that the AHA should actively consider rethinking the book as a gold standard for advancement.

In the midst of all of this, I decided to openly publish my 2008 doctoral dissertation, Inventing Malayanness: Race, Education and Englishness in Colonial Malaya online, under a Creative Commons license.

Why did I choose to do this?

Let me state up front that I do not disagree with the AHA statement. I have heard of a number of cases where people have been denied book contracts because their dissertation is available online, which can be potentially disastrous if one requires a book for tenure at their institution. Whether or not a book is the best marker of tenure and promotion in humanities fields is an important and needed conversation to have. However, I cannot determine standards for advancement at all institutions, and so I would advise anyone who is considering making their dissertation available online to consider what they might need from their dissertation in their professional future. Through the many interviews I have conducted with presses and libraries in my “Digital Challenges to Academic Publishing” series here at ProfHacker, I have learned that there is no single industry standard or singular point of view for what makes things publishable or profitable. For example, while one acquisitions editor might look at a highly downloaded dissertation as a good indication of a market for a book, another editor look at the exact same dissertation and and decide that the availability of an online dissertation will compete with–and hurt sales of–any book that grows out of it.

To me, all of this means that whether or not you choose to publish your dissertation online is a decision that you should be free to make on an individual basis.

So why did I choose to put my dissertation online? I chose to make Inventing Malayanness: Race, Education and Englishness in Colonial Malaya available for several reasons:

  1. I have already placed for publication two articles from chapters of my dissertation.
  2. Because my current book manuscript diverges significantly from my dissertation, the online version of the latter will not compete with the former.
  3. I received tenure and promotion at Richard Stockton College a few months ago (hooray!), which means that I do not need my monograph to be published as urgently as I might in different circumstances.
  4. I was hopeful that this might encourage more people to read my research and to use it in their own work. There is a very small market for research that is narrowly focused on Malaysia and Singapore, and many of the books available on the international market are extremely expensive. I know from personal experience that texts which are freely available online are much more likely to be read (and referenced) than texts which are buried behind expensive paywalls.

If you would like to publish your dissertation online, you have several options. Here are a few (among many):

  • One option could be your campus’ own institutional repository, which might offer open access to your dissertation once you have signed a few permissions forms. Check with your campus library to find out if this is possible.
  • Figshare.com is especially attractive because it provides you with a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), which is a digital version of an ISBN (International Standard Book Number), effectively “publishing” your work for you. Furthermore, Figshare is compatible with citation managers like Zotero, Refworks, and Endnote.
  • Scribd.com has the most attractive reading interface in my opinion, and processes your dissertation into sections that make it easy for a reader to page through your text. Scribd also allows you the option to hide a portion of your dissertation from full view and to sell the full version at a price that you set (I chose the option to make my dissertation fully viewable online but to require users to pay 2.99 to download a copy for offline use). In an email exchange with ProfHacker, Scribd support stated that there is no conflict between the Scribd EULA agreements and the Creative Commons license that I used (CC-BY-NC-ND).
  • Academia.edu bases its platform on Scribd.com but does not allow you to limit downloads of your work. However, as it is an increasingly large social media network for scholarly exchange, Academia.edu may increase the findability — and the readership — of your work.
  • Github.com, an online repository that allows people to build software collaboratively. We’ve written a lot about Github on ProfHacker already. I chose not to use Github because I preferred the interface Scribd offered, but that may be a matter of personal choice.

When publishing your dissertation online, you have your choice of license and (depending on hosting platform) price.

  • I chose the CC-BY-NC-ND Creative Commons license, (which means that users are free to copy, use and distribute my thesis as long as they attribute it to me. However the license restricts my work for commercial use and I did not allow any derivations of the work.) Creative Commons has a number of different licenses, many of which are less restrictive. I was most comfortable with my particular license because it is the same license used by prior examples of other dissertations released under Creative Commons, but some people may prefer more open licenses which allow for the remixing of their work (such as my colleague Ernesto Priego (@ernestopriego), who released his dissertation on Figshare under the CC-BY-SA license.
  • I chose to charge a small amount ($2.99) for someone to download my full dissertation because I think that academic work is labor and author should receive some acknowledgement of this labor. I don’t get very much per download (I receive a dollar per download, I believe), but I think making a token gesture towards appreciation of that labor is not unreasonable. Furthermore, if someone is unable to afford the $2.99, this will not prevent them from reading my dissertation in its entirety, as it is still fully readable online in the web browser. I did not choose to charge a larger amount as I did not want to limit the number of people who might want to download it for their own purposes. This small amount is only for the downloading of the dissertation, the entire dissertation is also fully readable free of charge from a web browser.

Since I published my dissertation on Wednesday evening, I have been amazed by the response. My tweets about putting Inventing Malayanness online have been retweeted by many Asian Studies scholars or people outside academia who live in the region. I have received a number of responses from people outside of higher education who have told me that they have found the work interesting. This is a reaction that I would be lucky to generate with a traditional book publication. I am happy with my decision, and hope that this will make my research useful to both scholars and people outside of academia who are interested in the history and culture of Singapore and Malaysia.

How about you? Is your dissertation available online? If it is, has this decision benefitted you professionally? What influenced your decision either way? As a reader and researcher, have you made use of an online dissertation? Please share in the comments!

Image by Fred Seibert on Flickr

26 Jul 20:09

Redneck Jesus

by Jeff Carter

If I am honest, I will have to admit that I would be likely to have missed Jesus as the Messiah.  I very probably would have, like Nathanial, when told "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” have responded: 

Nazareth?  Can anything good come from there?”

I have to be careful when reading the gospels because I have a tendency to imagine Jesus as being intellectual, and sophisticated, as being at the same time urbane and uncouth – a sort of 1st century hipster, too cool for those in power. In my unguarded moments I imagine Jesus like this because this is how I like think of myself.

But this self-portrait Jesus is flawed.  Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, “the Bumblefuck of its day” as historian Thomas Cahill describes it. [i]  He came from the sticks, the backwoods and spoke with a thick rural accent. In the Talmud (c. 200 CE), a story is told of a rural Galilean being ridiculed for his red-neck accent by the sophisticated and urban people in the marketplace of Jerusalem.


“You stupid Galilean, do you want something to ride on [hamar: a donkey]? Or something to drink [hamar: wine]? Or something for a sacrifice [immar: a lamb]?” (Mishnah Erubin 53b)


Peter was called out as one of Jesus’ followers, recognized by his broad backwards way of speaking.

The prejudice against this rural rabbi blinded the religious authorities of his time… and would probably have blinded me as well.






[i]Cahill, Thomas Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, Doubleday, New York, NY 1999. Page 89

26 Jul 13:00

The Lion, the Witch and the War

by Stephen Jarnick

The Chronicles of Narnia, the incredibly popular collection of books written by C. S. Lewis has sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages. The series, which was conceived by Lewis in 1939 and written from 1949 to 1954 was built on a foundation of Christian theology that supported using violence in extreme situations. During and after World War II the concept of great good defeating great evil was close to many people’s hearts because the allied forces had just defended the world against the threat of Nazi Germany. This same theology also underpinned the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis’ friend and colleague at Oxford University. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is full of epic battles where right prevails over wrong despite incredible odds. As the story goes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book in the original Narnia series, four children from the Pevensie family have been evacuated to the English countryside in anticipation of attacks on London. While there they accidentally discover the wintry parallel world of Narnia and its evil ruler Jadis, the White Witch. The book contains a host of characters inspired by Greek and German mythology, as well as Celtic literature. Most central to the story is Aslan, the Great Lion, which according to Lewis is “an alternative version of Jesus as he might have appeared in an alternative reality”, and he drives that point home when Aslan willingly sacrifices himself and is subsequently resurrected. The children’s adventure in Narnia builds until a climactic moment when Aslan kills the evil witch, but this is where things shift dramatically from reality to alternate reality. The real Jesus would never do that, because it’s a way of being that’s completely inconsistent with what He taught, and how He lived His life.

This part of the story is sometimes interpreted as Jesus defeating Satan but to be true to the Bible, Jesus refused to be defeated by Satan’s schemes but He didn’t attack Satan. I have tremendous respect for Lewis’ brilliant mind, and I love the imagery he uses of Jesus being portrayed as Aslan but we all approach things with a bias, and perhaps in this story we get a glimpse of his. I remember sitting in a movie theatre watching The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and when Jadis was killed, applause broke out. There’s no denying that deep down we love to see the good guys defeat the bad guys, and if that requires using violence…so be it.

In many ways present day America has become the new Aslan – a powerful, benevolent world ruler that prides itself on its Christian values until things start to get a little out of control, and then it bares its teeth. Since the American Revolution the United States has been involved in more than twenty armed conflicts around the world. That’s about twice the number for Australia and three times the number for Canada. It sounds like a lot of warmongering until we take a look at Britain’s staggering 100 military interventions. But then again, Britain has a much longer history of sending in the troops, and a lot more practise at ruling the world than America has. The major difference between the US and other nations is that only in America has the military become an integral part of culture and religion. It’s becoming so extreme that prior to the Iraq war many Evangelical pastors abandoned Jesus’ peace teachings altogether by telling their congregations that redemptive violence and righteous aggression are good, and that going to war is actually a Godly thing to do.

Related: C.S. Lewis Should Be an Evangelical Reject Too! – by John Janzen

Greg Boyd tells a chilling story about attending a Fourth of July church service that included a video presentation that radically changed his perception of the state of the Church in America.

There’s patriotic music playing and a flag waving in the background. It showed a silhouette of three crosses, and four fighter jets came down over the crosses and split, with the flag waving in the background. And there were some people who stood up, they were ecstatic, and I started crying because I wondered how it is possible that we went from being a movement of people who follow the Messiah, who taught us to love our enemies, to a movement that celebrates fighter jets – that fuses Jesus’ death on the cross with killing machines. And that was I guess a wake up call for me about how serious this problem is among Evangelicals in America.”

This intertwining of our spiritual lives with our military is perhaps the most dangerous result of mixing church and state, and to quote Greg Boyd again, “Nothing clears a room faster than questioning the righteousness of our military”. Unfortunately, this revering of all things militaristic is in all likelihood  a by-product of the “Military-Industrial Complex” that US President Eisenhower warned of during his farewell address. In that speech he expressed his concerns about having a standing army blindly supported by the government, with politicians feeling compelled to hand out contracts to arms manufacturers for fear of losing votes from their constituents. He believed that if Americans weren’t vigilant about monitoring the relationship between government and arms manufacturers, the American people would lose all control of their military. The huge problem facing Americans now is that it’s no longer a question of whether Republicans or Democrats are in power. If America isn’t constantly at war, the entire economic system falls apart and no-one has the power to stop it – not even the President.

If that all seems a little too scary, let me lighten things up a bit by telling you about my parents, Bernard and Isabella. The photo (above) was taken on their wedding day. They met after the war and were married in England in 1949. As you can tell from his uniform, my dad was in the military. When World War II broke out he was pursuing a degree in medicine at the University of Paris but he quit school to sign up as a pilot in the Royal Air Force. My mother also volunteered and became an RAF Teletype operator. At the beginning of the war my father and his brother Henry were both on the crew of a Lancaster bomber. My father was the pilot and my uncle was the navigator, but dad didn’t want to be responsible for the lives of six other crew members, so he transferred to a fighter plane squadron where if you messed up, you were the only one who died. Ironically, some time later my uncle’s bomber crashed into another plane over an airfield and everyone was killed. My mother saw it happen. In his new role as a fighter pilot my father flew Spitfires. They’re the planes made famous by the dogfights over London during the Blitz. Powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12 engines generating well over 1,000 horsepower, Spitfires reached a top speed of about 400 mph and had 8 machine guns mounted on the wings. My memories of my father are of a quiet man whose hobbies included indoor gardening, tropical fish and oil painting, and I find it hard to imagine him flying any kind of airplane or shooting at anyone, but I guess going to war can make people do things that they would never normally do.

So, how has having two Christian parents in the military impacted this pacifist’s views on Christianity, family and war? Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor at The Meeting House expressed my feelings exactly during a sermon about peace he gave at his church where he said,

“Is it possible for a pacifist to honor a non-pacifist? I know it is. My father fought in World War II and he’s my hero for it. He fought according to his conscience and according to his best understanding of the teaching of Jesus at the time. We may have disagreed over whether it’s okay for a Christian to kill for a cause but at least he was willing to die for a cause, and that is admirable.”

Related: Daring to Call it Idolatry, Nationalism in Worship – by Craig M. Watts

It’s important to note here that World War II wasn’t fought between Christian allied forces and a bunch of German heathens. At that time there was arguably no more “Christian” country in the world than Germany, but their army was primarily made up of Catholics and Lutherans who subscribed to Just War Theory. If they’d paid any attention to Jesus’ teachings, Germany couldn’t have put an army together and Hitler never would have gotten off the ground.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in following the teachings of Jesus is our tendency to do whatever we want, and to then convince ourselves that Jesus supports our agenda. This is especially true when it comes to His peace teachings. I’ve talked to church leaders who really want to speak the truth about peace but are afraid of repercussions from people in their congregations who are either in the military or related to someone in the military. There are a couple of things I’ve learned from thinking through this issue. The first is that we can love and respect people without agreeing with all of the choices they make. Many Christians do join the military, or support going to war, but I believe that there are much more Jesus-focused paths that we can take. The second is that none of us is perfect at following Jesus but we do need to be honest with ourselves about what He taught. He is the Prince of Peace and His teachings on this topic are incredibly clear, so if  for some reason we don’t want to follow Him in all situations, let’s just admit that and not pretend that He didn’t actually say what He said.

My prayer for all Christians is that we’d be brave enough to take Jesus seriously and to do what He asks us to do – live peacefully by loving our enemies, turning the other cheek and doing good to those who hate us, but that will only be possible if we put our trust in God and know that Jesus’ way of peace isn’t intended to be a success strategy, it’s a love strategy. Or perhaps instead of allowing our culture to define “success” for us, we Christians need to redefine it as following Jesus well by loving all people.

—-
Stephen Jarnick was born in England and grew up in Toronto, Canada. He is the founder of the Peaceworks youth movement, and the producer of the Peaceworks online video series about “Peace & Jesus”. Stephen works for Mennonite Central Committee, Ontario. Follow on Twitter @peaceworkstv, on Facebook, or visit the website.

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26 Jul 15:22

Interpreting Experience - Experiencing Interpretation: Im/Possibilities of a Hermeneutics of Religious Experience, 3-6 April 12014, St Benet's Hall, University of Oxford

The international and interdisciplinary conference Interpreting Experience — Experiencing Interpretation: Im/Possibilities of a Hermeneutics of Religious Experience, 3-6 April 2014, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford, explores the connections and the disconnections between religious experience and expressions of religious experience. What is a religious experience? First and foremost, a religious experience is a puzzle. The ‘religious’ in religious experience is often characterised in terms of the experience’s inherent inexpressibility. Yet taking into account the vast variety of textual and non-textual expressions articulated and interpreted in the past and present of religions, the notion of inexpressibility itself is puzzling. This puzzle is already apparent in William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, published in 1902. James defined religious experience as inexpressible encounter with transcendence; however, the material in which his definition was grounded consisted of nothing but expressions of these encounters. Through James’s study, the puzzle of religious experiences spawned itself into an array of theological and non-theological disciplines with dazzling diversity.

Within the current context of these disciplines, the watchword ‘spirituality’ stresses the significance of religious experience. Frequently, these experiences are marshalled to critique the traditionalism and institutionalism of religions such as Christianity. However, one might argue that traditions and institutions are precisely the sites that preserve and perpetuate religious experience.

Both experience and expressions of experience seem to be mutating. Since cultural artefacts and archives, such as the Bible, play a prominent part in the politics of demarcating the religious from the non-religious in secular or post-secular societies, manifestations and modifications of religious experience within biblical and non-biblical literature are of importance.

The demarcations of religion and non-religion impinge on the issue of the epistemology of religious experience. Since a religious experience is always already entangled with its expression, it appears to be relative — historically and culturally. However, the cognitive sciences seem to point to a common core of religious experiences through their cerebral correlates. Yet, these accounts of experience need to be articulated and interpreted as well. Hence, theological and non-theological studies of religion cannot escape the puzzle of religious experience.

Exploring both the possibilities and the impossibilities of a hermeneutics of religious experience is crucial for the disciplines revolving around religion. We invite presentations from different disciplines including theology, philosophy, history, sociology, and psychology, as well as cultural, biblical, and literary studies. We are interested in investigations of questions such as: What is a religious experience? What parts do articulation and interpretation play in a religious experience? Does the experience determine the expression or does the expression determine the experience? Do experience and expression condition each other? How does the contested contradistinction between the public and the private affect religious experience and expressions of religious experience? And what is the significance of religious experiences in contemporary cultures which are characterised by processes such as secularisation, sacralisation, pluralisation, individualisation, and globalisation?

Please submit your abstract (500 words maximum) and a brief biographical note to ulrich.schmiedel@theology.ox.ac.uk by 1 November 2013. For further information, please visit the conference website.

26 Jul 11:01

A Difficult Reading in an Unpublished Papyrus

I am just about through editing an interesting 1st-2nd cent. CE Greek documentary papyrus, but I am having trouble with the beginning of the very last line. I took to Facebook but since no one replied there I thought I would try here to see if anyone had an idea about what is written:
This papyrus is written in a semi-cursive script and is fairly easy to read. One of the difficulties with this line is the smudge a few letters in:
I cannot quite make out this letter. It is not a kappa, because in this papyrus kappa has a large, prominent hook on the end of its vertical. There appears to be a horizontal stroke atop the letter in question (somewhat offset), which may indicate an abbreviation. The first letter of this line is a typical cursive epsilon, and I am confident that, given the rules of word division (i.e., a word at the end of a line is divided after a vowel, except in the case of double consonants), this is the beginning of a new word. The next letter resembles mu but it is far more acute than other occurrences of the letter elsewhere in the papyrus. There is a ligature right before the smudged letter(s), and that is ει, although the iota does not descend quite as low as others in the papyrus:
What comes after the smudged letter is something like επ.οι. I am not sure if this is connected with the smudged letter but it is certainly not connected with the following word, which is clear:
This is a form of ἐμποδίζω ("hinder"), which is fairly common in the papyri (e.g. P.Oxy. VI 890, P.Tebt. I 41, etc.). Let me know what you think. I would be grateful for your thoughts on the unclear readings. The letter is interesting and I look forward to publishing it. It mentions sickness, a house, money, lack of repayment, a group of people who "do not have clothes," and other features. Thonis and Diogenes are named and Diogenes is quoted by the sender.
26 Jul 12:33

Dead Language Bonanza: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages

by noreply@blogger.com (James Hamrick)
All humans ask many of the same big, important, and often unanswerable questions about life: Where did we come from? What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?  And where can I find a basic grammatical description of nearly every ancient language I could imagine in one volume?

The answer to the ultimate question is of course 42 and the answer to the final and arguably more important question is The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages.   Roger Woodard's mammoth volume brings together a small army of scholars who have contributed 20-30ish page grammatical overviews for many of our world's ancient languages.  Just to give you a taste of the breadth of the volume, here is what it covers:


Sumerian
Elamite
Hurrian
Urartian
Afro-Asiatic
Ancient Egyptian and Coptic
Akkadian and Eblaite
Ugaritic
Hebrew
Phoenician and Punic
Canaanite dialects
Aramaic
Ge'ez (Aksum)
Ancient South Arabian
Ancient North Arabian
Indo-European
Hittite
Luvian
Palaic
Lycian
Lydian
Carian
Attic Greek
Greek dialects
Sanskrit
Middle Indic
Old Persian
Avestan
Pahlavi
Phrygian
Latin
Sabellian languages
Venetic
Continental Celtic
Gothic
Ancient Nordic
Classical Armenian
Etruscan
Early Georgian
Ancient Chinese
Old Tamil
Mayan
Epi-Olmec

Be honest, did you even know that all of these languages existed?

Read more »
26 Jul 12:52

Publications: Settlement and Soldiers in the Roman Near East

by noreply@blogger.com (boroca)
Ashgate Publishing contacted us last year regarding publishing a compilation of David Kennedy's past papers in a 'Variorum' volume. The unifying theme of this collection is Settlement and Soldiers in the Roman Near East, and the final result is a compilation of thirteen papers originally published in different sources from 1980 through to 2006. The volume includes a Preface, Addenda and Index for the included papers, as well as all images from the original papers.


David Kennedy

Settlement and Soldiers in the Roman Near East

Variorum Collected Studies Series: CS 1032 

Ashgate Publishing

2013

ISBN: 9781409464365

http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409464365
Hardback, 300 pages
66 black and white illustrations
244 x 169 mm format
Contents
Preface



From the Ashgate website:
The Roman Near East has been a source of fascination and exasperation - an immense area, a rich archaeological heritage as well as documents in several local languages, a region with a great depth of urbanisation and development … yet relatively neglected by modern researchers and difficult to work on and in. Local archaeologists are often under-funded and the Roman period viewed as an earlier phase of western colonialism.

Happily, the immense surge in archaeological and historical research on the Roman period everywhere has included the Roman Near East and there have been significant academic developments.

This collection of studies on the Roman Near East represents Professor Kennedy’s academic assessment of the region, which began with his doctoral thesis on the contribution of Syria to the Roman army. Although the thesis was never published, several articles owe their genesis to work done then or soon after and are included here (VI, VII, IX, XII). Initial visits to military sites in Syria and Jordan swiftly brought out the presence in many cases of associated civil settlements and - though often now gone, the traces of ancient field systems. Hence, the two prominent sub-themes in this collection are the Roman military and various aspects of society and settlement - settlement types, farming, logistical underpinning and communications.
26 Jul 12:58

Roman-Jewish Friendship Tablet Real?

Still thinking about this one from Arutz Sheva:

An independent historian from the small northern Negev city of Arad has turned the world of historical research upside down with controversial new research published in a Danish journal.

The article authored by Dr. Linda Zollschan, which appears in Classica Et Mediaevalia, the Danish Journal of Philology and History, Volume 63, proves a long-gone bronze tablet displaying ‘friendship’ between Rome and Israel’s Jews did indeed exist. The research has overturned previous assertions to the contrary.

Ancient writers – Josephus, Justinus and Eusebius – have all made reference to the fact that the Jews received “friendship” (a technical term for diplomatic ties, just below formal diplomatic relations) from the Romans. Memory of this event was preserved through oral and written tradition into the Middle Ages on a bronze tablet that once hung in the Church of San Basilio in Rome, says Zollschan in her article.

“The bronze tablet had been well known, for it was remembered after it had disappeared from sight and given attention in the Mirabilia, a guidebook which had wide currency and was still being reprinted and used into the sixteenth century,” Zollschan explains.

“The tablet was singled out for attention because of its mention of Judas Maccabaeus who was held in high regard in the Middle Ages. The story of the Maccabaean revolt against the Seleucid king served as an allegory of the battles of the Church against its enemies. The success of the Jews with G-d’s help was also considered an uplifting exemplar of military leadership and later (during the Crusades) as the defender of Jerusalem.”

That it was inscribed on bronze defines it as an inscription that had significance in its own right, and that it was not used as building material, as were so many stone inscriptions, she adds. Its text, which contained mention of Judas Maccabeaeus — Judah Maccabee – gave it a religious significance, reminding the viewer of Judah the warrior, aided by G-d, who succeeded against overwhelming odds in his battle against the Syrian Seleucid army.

Till now, most historians in the field have believed the tablet – which has not been seen in centuries – was only a myth confused with one inscribed in stone.

“There are several indicators to be considered that speak for the tablet’s authenticity,” Zollschan argues in her article.

“Overlooked in previous treatments of this bronze tablet is the relevance of its location … in the ruins of the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus, a temple which had served as the ‘Foreign Office’ of Rome. Its contents recording friendship between the Roman and the Jews was the type of information that would have been inscribed on a bronze tablet and hung on a temple wall in Rome.

“This friendship was just the type of diplomatic relations that many of the ancient sources also report was cemented as a result of the Jewish embassy to Rome in 161 BCE. Bronze was the typical medium for the setting down [of] the text of decrees of the Senate and recording diplomatic relations,” she explains.

“Being affixed to a wall accorded with Roman practice. In the Middle Ages, ancient Roman inscriptions, like the one in the Mirabilia, were often displayed in churches.”

There were other details that afford ample proof of the tablet’s existence as well, she argues, despite the fact it no longer physically exists.

“The bronze tablet was mentioned in 1140 and continued to be known in the sixteenth century when the guidebook was still sold to pilgrims coming to Rome,” Zollschan explained in her article.

Several hundred years later, there was still a Jewish connection.

“The land on which the now dilapidated church stood was granted by Pope Pius IV in 1562 to the Dominican order of nuns, who built the the Monastery of SS. Annunziata. They had sought property in Rome to house Jewish girls who had converted to Christianity and who wanted to live as nuns under monastic vows, but had nowhere to go because other monasteries rejected them on account of their Jewish ancestry,” she continued.

“Converts were given accommodation and girls were lured to convert by a gift of 50 scudi for a dowry so that they could marry. The church found for them a suitable Christian partner. Those who did not marry became nuns.

“So it was that 40 nuns (converts from Judaism) came to live on the ruins of a church that had once openly displayed evidence of friendship between the Romans and the Jews.”

The article isn’t out yet (not until August, apparently), but there is an abstract (I believe) at Dr Zollschan’s Academia.edu page:

I think we have to read the article on this one before passing judgement …


26 Jul 17:11

Idea-based learning in Religion 101: getting started

For the last few days I’ve been reading Edmund J. Hansen’s Idea-Based Learning: A Course Design Process to Promote Conceptual Understanding (Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2011). I learned about Hansen’s book from Forrest Clingerman’s review in the July 2013 supplement to Teaching Theology and Religion.

I find many of Hansen’s claims and suggestions inspiring, but I’d like to apply them to my courses in ways that are not completely idiosyncratic. To that end, I thought I’d try to start a conversation here around a few of Hansen’s key points, relating them to a stereotypical introductory Old Testament course for undergraduates in a predominantly Christian environment (not necessarily bound to a “survey” model). I hope that plenty of Higgaion readers will weigh in, and will invite your compatriots who don’t read this blog regularly to pay a visit and join the discussion. I’m asking myself the following three questions, and I would like to hear how others would answer them.

1. Hansen suggests that course design should begin by identifying two or three “big ideas” that the course should address. Hansen normally expresses big ideas as noun phrases (with occasional use of gerunds). Big ideas could include disciplinary content (such as “causes of human behavior” for psychology, “social inequality” for sociology, “first language acquisition” for linguistics, “theory of evolution” for biology, or “central tendency” for statistics), skills (such as “metacognitive awareness,” “applying the scientific method,” or “effective collaboration”), or attitudes and values (such as “attitude of critical thinking,” “importance of lifelong learning,” and “social accountability”). (See Hansen, p. 34 for more examples.) Assuming a predominantly but not exclusively Christian student population, what would you consider the top five big ideas that students should explore in an undergraduate introductory Old Testament class?

2. For each of the big ideas, Hansen writes, we should be able to articulate several “enduring understandings.” Whereas big ideas are broad categories that can be expressed in just a short noun phrase (and maybe just a single word), it takes a sentence to express an enduring understanding. For Hansen, enduring understandings “have stood the test of time and have proven useful across contexts and cultures, and they are what students should take away from their studies long after a given course has ended” (p. 37). Hansen gives examples for business (“Patterns of consumption inform production and marketing decisions.”), geography (“The topography, climate, and natural resources of a region influence the culture, economy, and lifestyle of its inhabitants.”), history (“History involves interpretation; historians can and do disagree.”), science (“Correlation does not ensure causality.”), and other disciplines, but not biblical studies. What would you consider the top three enduring understandings related to any or all of the big ideas you identified?

3. Each enduring understanding can in turn generate one or more specific learning outcomes, Hansen suggests. Some of Hansen’s sample learning outcomes include “enable students to evaluate an unfamiliar event in its historical context” (history), “analyze applications of calculus in unfamiliar situations” (mathematics), “write a poem that uses imagery and structure typical of early 19th century American poets” (American literature), or “identify an audit problem in a financial statement and recommend ways to address it” (accounting). Note that these are not yet “assignments,” but are rather “competencies,” even if the example given for American literature gets very close to sounding like an assignment and sounds much more specific than the example given for history. If students have internalized the enduring understandings you identified, what should they now be able to do as a result?

My list of questions here stops short of actual schedules and assignments, in part because I haven’t gotten to that part of Hansen’s book yet and in part because it’s premature to discuss assignments without a sense for the overall movement and direction of the course. I look forward to your comments on the three questions above, and I expect that I’ll blog more on this topic before too long.

26 Jul 18:02

Ostracon 19th Dynasty 1240 BC Ostracon with register of...



Ostracon

19th Dynasty

1240 BC

Ostracon with register of attendance at work. Labelled ‘Year 40’ of Ramses II, it provides a workmen’s register for 280 days of the year. There are twenty-four lines of Late Egyptian hieratic on the front and twenty-one lines on the back. A list of forty names is arranged in columns on the right edge of each side, followed to the left by dates written in black in a horizontal line. Above most dates is a word or phrase in red, indicating the reason why this individual was absent from work on that date.

(Source: The British Museum)

26 Jul 20:07

On Beating Dead Horses

by noreply@blogger.com (Laurence A. Moran)
I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating. One of my Ph.D. students (Sharon Shtang) wrote her thesis on sequence comparisons and phylogenetic trees. She found a quotation from Emil Zuckerkandl and Linus Pauling in their 1965 review. They were commenting on using amino acid sequences to prove evolution. This seemed at the time to be an example of overkill since evolution was then, and is now, a fact. They said ...
Some beating of dead horses may be ethical, where here and there they display unexpected twitches that look like life.
I was reminded of this while reading Salvador Corova's latest post on Uncommon Descent because he refers to beating dead horses [If not Rupe and Sanford’s presentation (8/6/13), would you believe Wiki? In this case, yes]. I'm not going to make any comments. Read it and weep for the IDiots.
Theme

Mutation
Evolutionists reluctantly admit most evolution is free of selection and therefore non-Darwinian (neutral evolution). When pressed, they’ll say neutral drift is real, but they don’t like it when the dots are connected in a way that demonstrates neutral evolution refutes Darwinism, that there is a contradiction between Dawkins’ vision and neutral evolution! The way Darwinists deal with this violation of the law of non-contradiction is to pretend no contradiction exists. They’ll obfuscate and fog the issue with myriad technical terms and irrelevancies so that the illusion of non-contradiction is protected from public view. Confusion and the illusion of some higher knowledge are their friends, clarity and education of the public are their enemies.

If Dawkins had been faithful to the facts, he wouldn’t have even written The Blind Watchmaker because population genetics precludes his vision of evolution from being reality in anything but his silly Weasel simulations.

There is a simple formula from Wiki that says the rate of new mutations is the rate at which new mutations become features of every member of the population (a process called fixation).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixation_(population_genetics)


The population size is N and the Greek symbol μ (mu) is the mutation rate.

It stands to reason a slightly deleterious mutation is almost neutral, hence, approximately speaking the rate that slightly deleterious mutations become part of every member of the population is on the same order of the slightly deleterious mutation rate. That means if every human is getting 100 dysfunctional mutation per generation, about 100 dysfunctional mutations are getting irreversibly infused into humans every generation (a ratchet so to speak).

But as bad as that is, it’s actually worse in reality. Remember broken bacterial parts in anti-biotic resistance, or blindness in cave fish, or sickle cell anemia? Those are “beneficial” (in the Darwinian sense) mutations, but destructive in the functional sense. So it is actually generous the creationists are modeling the dysfunctional mutations as slightly deleterious (whereas a fair argument might actually model some of the dysfunctional mutations as “beneficial”). So the creationists are cutting Darwinists a lot of slack, and yet, even then the dysfunctional mutations will get fixed (become members of all individuals) in a population! Not to mention, lots of bad may get purged from a population only to get replaced with new generations of bad....

But obvious math is something Darwinism hates dealing with! The above equation should be painful evidence against evolution being some process of increasing complexity from a primordial virus to incredible minds like Newton or Einstein. Darwinist won’t come to terms with it, they won’t come to terms with even a computer simulation based on population genetic models. Oh well! But anyway, Christopher Rupe and John Sanford will be presenting the results of a computer simulation that illustrates the above equation. It’s sort of like beating a dead horse or beating living puppies. It’s not very sporting, but Darwinists keep propping up that dead horse for creationists to keep beating.


Zuckerkandl, E. and Pauling, L. (1965) in EVOLVING GENES AND PROTEINS, V. Bryson and H.J. Vogel eds. Academic Press, New York NY USA
26 Jul 07:45

Back-pedalling

by Dave Walker

backpedalling

26 Jul 13:36

Evangelicals and Evolution: expecting from the Bible what it’s not set up to deliver?

by Peter Enns
Christians have been butting heads with evolution since the 19th century. A lot is at stake. If evolution is right about how humans came to be, then the biblical story of Adam and Eve–which has been answered the question of human origins for almost 2000 years–isn’t. Those who believe that God himself is in some [Read More...]
25 Jul 23:10

School of Theology Public Seminar – Vinoth Ramachandra – Engaging the University

by stepheng

VR-PhotoVinoth Ramachandra - Engaging the University

Vinoth Ramachandra was born in Sri Lanka and holds Bachelor and Doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of London. He is currently the Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. His work includes promoting a dialogical and integral Christian engagement with the university in various parts of the world, as well as helping Christian graduates engage theologically with the social, ideological and political challenges they face in their national contexts. He has been involved for many years with the civil rights movement in Sri Lanka, as well as with the global Micah Network and A Rocha (a world-wide biodiversity conservation organization). His books include The Message of Mission (2003), Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues that Shape Our World (2008) and Church and Mission in the New Asia (2009).

Tuesday 30 July 2013, 6.30-8.30pm
Room 202, Arts 1, Building 206, 14a Symonds Street

Email: theology@auckland.ac.nz

In association with TSCF.

PDF poster – Public Seminar – Vinoth Ramachandra

25 Jul 22:53

School of Theology Public Seminar – Vinoth Ramachandra

by Stephen Garner

VR-PhotoVinoth Ramachandra - Engaging the University

Vinoth Ramachandra was born in Sri Lanka and holds Bachelor and Doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of London. He is currently the Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement, International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. His work includes promoting a dialogical and integral Christian engagement with the university in various parts of the world, as well as helping Christian graduates engage theologically with the social, ideological and political challenges they face in their national contexts. He has been involved for many years with the civil rights movement in Sri Lanka, as well as with the global Micah Network and A Rocha (a world-wide biodiversity conservation organization). His books include The Message of Mission (2003), Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues that Shape Our World (2008) and Church and Mission in the New Asia (2009).

Tuesday 30 July 2013, 6.30-8.30pm
Room 202, Arts 1, Building 206, 14a Symonds Street

Email: theology@auckland.ac.nz

In association with TSCF.

PDF poster - Public Seminar – Vinoth Ramachandra


26 Jul 08:02

What I’m Reading: Agenda 21

by Jeff Carter
Glenn Beck Agenda 21 photo agenda21.jpg
In Agenda 21 radio host and political commentator, Glenn Beck [i], has put to paper an outlandish version of his own paranoid conspiracy theories and dystopian predictions of the future.   I can’t describe the book as a thriller (as it isn’t thrilling in anyway) or as a nightmare (because to be frightening, it would have to be believable, and it isn’t.)

Beck (since his name is emblazoned on the cover, he gets the blame)  has created a bizarre future world wherein a distant and never actually seen Central Authority has crushed the American democratic government and collectivized private property.  Everyone lives in centrally planned communities.  Every decision from birth to death is made by the Authorities. 

And it’s all because of Agenda 21 – a nonbinding, voluntarily implemented action plan developed by the United Nations to promote sustainable development – that is, to meet human needs without polluting the environment and depleting natural resources.  But in Beck’s delusion, this means socialist totalitarianism.  Everything Beck doesn’t like means socialist totalitarianism. 

The novel is dull. 

There is no action, only a series of history lectures given to the protagonist, Emmeline – who is a surrogate for the reader.  She is a home-raised, homeschooled young woman – she did not attend the village school.  Emmeline, ostensibly the heroine of the story, is profoundly ignorant about the events that led up to her world situation and about how to live in that world.  It makes me wonder if Beck isn’t hurting one of his own favorite causes: homeschooling.  Emmaline is unbelievably ignorant.  How could her parents (her mother a history teacher, even) have raised her for 14 years and kept her so sheltered that she knows nothing about the past or her present?  She, in effect, becomes the epitome of that stereotypical ignorant and unsocialized homeschooled kid.

Seriously, the novel is dull.  And it doesn’t help that the writing is flat and unimaginative.  It’s a very easy to read book; I read it in a couple of hours – but that’s not a plus. It’s simplistic and shallow.  The characters are one dimensional (if that) and exhibit none of the complexities that make people so interesting.

But Beck isn’t really interested in people, nor is he interested in human drama or compelling stories. He’s got his own agenda:  Selling tinfoil hats and making lots of money.




[i]Yes, I am  aware that the book’s afterward makes it perfectly clear that Harriet Parke actually wrote the book, but if Beck is going to splash his name across the cover to take credit for it, then he’s going to take the blame for it too.
26 Jul 00:53

My monograph published

by Matthew R. Malcolm

Fittingly, I was at a dinner for the SNTS conference last night when I received an email alerting me that my book in the SNTS monograph series is now officially released (in UK & Europe). I’m grateful to all who made this possible, and helped refine it on the way through…

Paul and the Rhetoric of Reversal