Hierodule


November 30, 2006

from Boing Boing Victoria and Albert drops reproduction charges:
London's Victoria and Albert museum will allow scholarly magazines and books to reproduce the images in its collection free of charge, and is taking a wide view of what is "scholarly."

Much of the work in the V&A is in the public domain but many museums practice a weird perversion of copyright: they make you agree not to take (or sometimes publish) photos you take while in their halls as a condition of entry. Then they assert the bizarre claim that photos of their public domain collections are themselves new copyrighted works (even though the purpose of such a photo is to apply as little interpretation, art and creativity to the shot as possible) and charge the public a monopoly rent to reproduce the photos they've produced.
The linked article states
The V&A feels that it is important that readers see images of items in the collection, helping to fulfil its educational role and raise its profile internationally. Images of 25,000 objects in the V&A will be available.


Jon Barlow explores power concentration in the PCA.


November 28, 2006

A while ago I was researching the origins of the commonly quoted African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child", wondering what actual African tribe said that. (it's a loose paraphrase, it turns out, literally saying that one hand cannot raise a child)

In the course of that I noted the list of African proverbs included "Blood is thicker than water". Odd, I thought, since I believed that to be a specifically western proverb referring to the relative strength of family ties over those of the church (which is a bond in the water of baptism; and thus, this is a proverb that Christians would regard negatively) But would indigenous Africans have come up with such a proverb independently? Is it a proverb with a different meaning in their context?

Etymologies of common expressions are notoriously hard to pin down. Some research I came accross via teh intarweb
"This proverb on the bonds of family and common ancestry first appeared in the medieval German beast epic 'Reinecke Fuch' (c. 1130 'Reynald the Fox') by Heinrich der Glichezaere, whose words in English read, 'Kin-blood is not spoiled by water.' In 1412, the English priest John Lydgate observed in 'Troy Book,' 'For naturelly blod will ay of knde/ Draw vn-to blod, wher he may it fynd.' By 1670, the modern version was included in John Ray's collected 'Proverbs,' and later appeared in Sir Walter Scott's novel 'Guy Mannering' (1815) and in English reformer Thomas Hughes's 'Tom Brown's School Days' (1857). In 1859, a U.S. Navy commodore also quoted the proverb in a letter explaining why he had gone to the aid of a British fleet during a battle with the Chinese that year. More recently, Aldous Huxley's 'Nineth Philosopher's Song' (1920) gave the saying quite a different turn with 'Blood, as all men know, than water's thicker/ But water's wider, thank the Lord, than blood. From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).
This reference still doesn't clarify the "water" that blood is in contrast too. According to this, though, it may have been intended as an opposite from how we take it
This phrase has completely lost its original, covenant-related, meaning. Today, it is interpreted as meaning that blood-related family members are to be considered as more important than anyone else. However, the original meaning is, "The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb," or, "My relationship with those to whom I am joined in covenant is to be considered of more value than the relationship with a brother with whom I may have shared the womb."
(This doesn't seem particularly strong though).


In commenting on the Haggard issue Carl Trueman rightly brings up the lesson of the Donatist controversy
The basic argument of Augustine and others was that the church is not dependent for its existence and authority because of the moral fibre of her leaders. Not at all. The word is powerful because it is Godís word, accompanied and applied by his Spirit. When a leader falls, it is disappointing; it hurts family; it discourages those who may have invested much in that person; but it no more necessarily invalidates the message they preached than their previously blameless character validated it. Did they preach Godís word? That is the only key question to ask on this point.
Truman mentions that "this is part of the point" of the Donatist controversy, but I'm wondering if its a very minor point. Was anyone then very concerned with the question of their pastor's fidelity in communicating the Word of God to them? There is surely some re-examination of what a man may have taught when they turn out to have fallen so deeply, but by and large something I am already convinced of the truth of does not come into question deeply when the teacher falls. 2+2 is still 4 if my math teacher is a pedophile. If my pastor is a hypocrite, he's only a hypocrite because he violates a moral standard that we both consider true.

But what is at question is not whether the word is still powerful, but whether the sacraments administered by the fallen man are still valid. (That's even the point the Westminster Divines thought was of importance to confess: the sacramental question, not the preaching question.) If your doctor is shown to be a fraud, that does raise questions about the utility of the medicine he administered or the procedures he performed on you, and that seems to me to more be the issue that made the Donatist controversy a controversy. Can Truman equally remind us that "The sacraments are powerful because they are Godís sacraments, accompanied and applied by his Spirit"?

Now maybe the question on Haggard's parishioner's minds are primarily doctrinal, not sacramental. But that's just more evidence of the low regard for sacramental efficacy in the world today. (I almost wrote "among protestants", but then I recalled Garver's arguments that in comparison to RC dogma that the efficacy of baptism can be quenched (dried out?) by later sin, the reformed argue that the efficacy is not just tied to the moment of administration, but extends to the whole life.)




Excellent bit on Common Grounds on one aspect of Borat


Mark Horne asks about PCA churches that practice advent and finds reports of many.

One critique of a church calendar I read I thought was rather muddled, since the author allowed for Chritsmas and Easter, but just didn't want a full-fledged callendar. I also thought the claim that the NT is "simple" religion
"While it is true that Old Testament Israel followed strict outward forms, all this is changed in the New Testament. The whole religious system of Old Testament Israel has been subsumed into personal faith in Jesus Christ. There is a massive simplification at work in the New Covenant, with only the two sacraments of baptism and communion. The outward forms have given way to inward reality. The Book of Hebrews emphasizes this much."
is very disingenuous in any church that uses instruments, and doubly so for one that has a choir, a brass ensemble, an organ, etc, that perform complex music that requires hours of training an prep to perform properly. Such a church is probably *more* complicated musically than anything David set up.


November 27, 2006

Stanley Crouch: Memo to young black men: Please grow up.

HT to Barlow for linking this article. The meme of obsessive videogaming is strong these days, even introducing a recent sermon I heard on Psalm 84. We're surely not a very adult culture today, and videogames are a symptom and contributor.

I wonder though if many of those camped out for PlayStations are not engaging in some level of sophisticated shrewd behavior. Some percentage of the campers seem to be planning on selling their PlayStations for a significant profit on eBay. Not a "nice" thing to do, but not too adolescent either.

Games are becoming a socially significant form of entertainment and communication though. These are sophisticated and challenging entertainments, qualifying at some level as a "lively art", and while obsession with a game is deleterious, lively arts have always drawn some to levels of obsession and devotion.


Phil Ryken's sermon on Luke covered the "look" that Jesus gave Peter at the moment of denial when the rooster crowed. Phil reminds me of that in his citation of Spurgeon on "The Preacher as Rooster" (good post).

I suppose there is always a hazard in providing alot of detailed meaning to unexplained phenomenons of the bible, like exactly what kind of "look" it was that Jesus gave to Peter. Since Peter went out and wept bitterly afterwards, I typically pictured it as a look of exasperated and stoic disappointment that, just as he had predicted, Peter had failed even with all his bravado.

Ryken presented a much more positive picture of the
"look," one that never even crossed my mind: that Jesus look was one of compassion and mercy: since Jesus knew Peter would fail, he offers his love and support to Peter just at the moment when Peter needs it the most.

I suppose it's hard to be sure about what kind of "look" it really was, but it probably says something about the kind of meanie I am.


Joel writes
Is the point of these papers to defend a crumbling conservativism against a variety of newer evangelical politics?
Yeah, probably, and why not? If grudem thinks the new politics that evanglicalism is enmeshing itself in is misguided, why wouldn't he offer a defense of his own views?
And, if so, what does that tell us about the ways in which conservative evangelicalism has enmeshed itself with the success and fortunes of a particular sort of American political identity and, in doing so, has muted the church's prophetic stance?
It depends on what you think that prophetic stance needs to consist of.

The newsweek article mentions things I don't think Grudem would object to America doing (like helping in the Sudan)
Moreover, doesn't the evidence embodied in Grudem and Burk's papers tend to validate the very criticism that many younger evangelicals have voiced?
No, because the criticism is too vague and uspecified and Gurdemn's defense too narrowly targeted. Nothing firm has emerged yet.


November 17, 2006

If the incarnational analogy is to reflect all the "brokenness" of incarnate life, where does the Transfiguration fit in?

Yes, God was revealed in Jesus on Cross. But God was also revealed in the Transfiguration.

There was a human standard of beauty that Jesus did not conform to ("had no comeliness that we should desire him"). But he did sometimes (the transfiguration).


November 15, 2006

""Q: How can you be a dragon and a Christian at the same time?

A: Many shifters worry that they are so strange that they can never be accepted into the Body of Christ. That's not true and its not being fair to Christians. We Christians accept people from all walks of life. I'm proof of that.
I have been told that my shifter feelings are a lie from satan and that God has a plan for me in this human body. Well I don't know what that plan is, and as far as I can see, that divine plan will never see fruition because I feel too much like a loser to implement it.
So I need to be a dragon, a beautiful and powerful dragon that's fears not what men can say or do and attracts many followers. If I was a dragon, I could do so much good for this world because my self-confidence would return to me. I pray constantly to God to change me, and He tells me to wait."

o_O


November 14, 2006

There seems to be a thread of discussion about tipping waitstaff in restaurants, particularly by Christians dining out after church on Sunday.

My observation of it started With Jollyblogger's call for "astonishing generosity," base in part on the call in Matthew 5 to 'go the extra mile'. Of course, as practiced, it might seem like paying someone to consider Christianity when done explicitly evangelisticly.

Then Phil Ryken cited an article in Relevant magazine (never heard of it. What does Ryken reading such a mag say about him, I wonder) called "The Dreaded Christian Table", adding more anecdotal evidence to the claim that Christians who eat out on Sunday tend to be rude, pharisaically pious, and lousy tippers.

(What about the Sabbatarians who aren't even in a restaurant, I continue to wonder.)

Justin Taylor linked the Ryken post on his blog, (allowing comments, which ref21 doesn't) and comments ensued. He also adds The Ambassador and the Waitress.

One commentor took issue with the post, agitating for a more revolutionary position, that waitstaff just be paid fair wages up front. Interesting comments there too.

This is not a new topic, though, as I found from this 2004 article on Christianity.ca.

There is also "Confessions of a Bad Christian" who refers to an article from USA TODAY in April 2006 on how CEOs will use a job applicant's behavior towards waitstaff as a barometer of whether they will make a good executive.

It does seem incongrouous that Christians would be worse tippers than anyone else, and I still wonder about possible justifactions that lousy-tipping Christians might have for their practice.

Maybe Ryken will do Window on the World on this topic. If our public witness to Center City is forged by such things as parking, snow shoveling, and tipping, it would behove us to improve if we can, and ecclesiastical enforcement of the sabbath is off the table, because, well, it just is.


Marc Driscoll's favorite soda ads.

(I actually don't think Driscoll's comment was all that heinous. But those ads might help the frumpy pastors' wives stick in hubby's thoughts...)


November 13, 2006

Outrage as Church backs calls for severely disabled babies to be killed at birth | the Daily Mail

Actually, the article says that the Bishop in question claims that the babies might be "allowed to die" not killed.

Did the Westminster Larger Catechism answer this one already by prescribing the "moderate use of physik"? If it costs $12,000,000 to keep a baby alive (number pulled out of a hat), it might not be moral to do that in every case.


Derek Thomas poses some interesting questions on whether Jesus was "able" to sin or not
The fact that there was nothing "inside" Jesus -- no proclivity to sin, no innate desire to sin -- does not mean a lessening of the reality of the temptation. Jesus was not necessarily aware in his human mind that he was not able to sin. The devil no doubt questioned his sinlessness and impeccability and the resources Jesus employed to combat it were strikingly similar to the way we must resist temptation: prayer (Mark 14:35), Scripture (Matt. 4:4) and the fellowship of brothers (Mark 14:33).
But Ligon Duncan writes
Jesus Christ lived every moment of his conscious experience with an exact and exhaustive foreknowledge of what was coming.
would he have that kind of foreknowledge at every point and now be aware of his inability to sin at every point as well?


Jesus obeys all the law perfectly. This is righteous of him.

When God counts Jesus as a sinner and makes him undergo the penalty for sin it must be just and righteous for God to do so, because if it were not, then God would be guilty of sin or injustice/arbitrariness.

So there must be a mechanism/logical reason/legal reason why the God will regard Jesus as sinful so that he will suffer the penalty for sin in justice.

1. It could be that God could just conduct a "cold piece of business" and do a "trick of thought" in his mind where he says, I'll think of Jesus as being a sinner, punish him, and thus satisfy my justice w.r.t. humanity so that their sins will be justly punished. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think Reformed theology has ever taught this.

2. It could be that the Son volunteers to be accounted a sinner so that God's justice will be satisfied. But if there is no legal basis for the son doing that then the judge that allows that is being arbitrary and unjust, not just.

3. It could be that the son takes on a human nature and so unites himself with sinful humanity that he must be put to death for what he shares with sinful humanity. Some of the difficulties of this approach are mentioned by Derek Thomas. And even taking this to be the case, there is still the matter of the fact that by taking a human nature and subjecting himself to the law, Jesus himself commits no sins and thus it would still be unjust or arbitrary of God to reckon Jesus as a sinner merely because he took on a human nature, when in that human nature he performed the duties of the law flawlessly.

4. Being appointed the messiah/king of sinful humanity might get closer to something like a 'legal basis' for the imputation of the sins of humanity to Jesus Christ. God has brought judgments on human rulers for the foibles of their subjects in the past: he was angry with Israel and moved David to number Israel. But in that case, David himself does an act that is a judicial sin and God justly punishes the sin. Is it just for sinless messiah of a sinful people to be accounted as guilty of their sins when he teaches against them constantly? God says the watchman will deliver himself from guilt if he warns the people, and the people still rebel.

5. Also, any reliance on the mere fact of a human nature as a just and legal basis for the imputation of the guilt of sinful humanity to Jesus would run into the problem that if that is sufficient basis for a legal judgement, then Jesus is guilty of the sins of humanity from the point on incarnation on. That does not seem at all to be the teaching of the bible or reformed theology.


November 10, 2006

I picked up a copy of the City Paper this morning on my way in because of the following story:

Take My Kid, Please :: Cover Story :: Philadelphia City Paper

Quite sad, really.


November 09, 2006

Peter Leithart posts an interesting entry on systems of classification
George Lakoff tells about the Australian aboriginal tribe of the Dyirbal, who speak a language that classifies everything into four categories. One of these, "balan," includes "women, bandicoots, dogs, platypuses, echidnas, some fish, birds, fireflies, scorpions, crickets, the hairy mary grub, anything connected with water or fire, sun and stars, shields, some spears, some trees" (the summary is from Walter Truett Anderson). The classification is based on analogies between women and each of these objects. The grub's, for instance, feels like sunburn, which puts it in the same group with the sun, conceived as feminine among the Dyirbal.
I was amused by this, but also it reminded me of the misinformation that flies around as a result of Borges essay "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins"
These ambiguities, redundancies and deficiencies remind us of those which doctor Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled 'Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge'. In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into:
(a) belonging to the emperor,
(b) embalmed,
(c) tame,
(d) sucking pigs,
(e) sirens,
(f) fabulous,
(g) stray dogs,
(h) included in the present classification,
(i) frenzied,
(j) innumerable,
(k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
(l) et cetera,
(m) having just broken the water pitcher,
(n) that from a long way off look like flies.
Foucault introduced his book The Order of Things with reference to this taxonomy of Borges. He was well aware that it was a fictitious taxonomy, but cited it in an attempt to show that our own taxonomic schemes showed the limits of our systems of thought because we could not imagine working under the fictitious Chinese one. Keith Winschuttle takes issue with the way Foucault deploys a fictitious taxonomy in service of undermining the reliability of actual taxonomies, and also points out that many have come to regard the taxonomy Borges created as a real one.

It seems though, that Leithart's citation of the classification of the Dyirbal tongue is correct [pdf], but looking at the cited pdf, I wonder if it is much more remarkable than the generally western experience of three gendered nouns: masculine, feminine, and neuter. We classify ships as feminine, and Germans and French of course have a great many genders-specific nouns that we don't have on the surface of our language. Is it remarkable that an Aboriginal language might have interesting things in the categories of feminine nouns?

That the Aboriginal language is willing to put sundry objects or animals in a masculine or feminine category seems more interesting to me as something approaching an 'objective' universality of human culture, and if they call ships masculine and bandicoots feminine and we would do otherwise strikes me as a not-very-troubling variety of human diversity.

UPDATE: I see here that Lakoff presents the Dyribal language explicitly in the context of Borges classification (Lakoff knows its fictitious, fortunately)
Borges of course, deals with the fantastic. These not only are not natural human categories -- they could not be natural human categories. But part of what makes this passage art, rather than mere fantasy, is that it comes close to the impression a Western reader gets when reading descriptions of nonwestern languages and cultures. The fact is that people around the world categorize things in ways that both boggle the Western mind and stump Western linguists and anthropologists.
Count me as non-boggled. And how are they stumped? Leithart actually shows how their is a comprehensible rationale for the classes, though not one we would use. It may not be immediately obvious why a ship is a she, but we're not stumped by it.


November 01, 2006

Derek Thomas imagines what Calvin would have thought of the NPP
Penal substitution through satisfaction were Calvin's main emphases and a perspective which substitutes ecclesiastical categories (who belongs to the covenant community?) rather than soteriological categories (how can a sinner be made right with God?), and one that answers the former by emphasizing "boundary markers" of baptism and the Lord's Supper, he would view as Catholicism redivivus.
Calvin seems to have missed Wright's strong emphasis that the boundary marker of the covenant community is faith in contrast to Jewish boundary markers.

Calvin is usually more careful than that. Maybe he assumes that baptism seems like a fine boundary marker, and thus assumes that the NPP must be making baptism into the marker. But Wright's whole point is that faith is the "mere" boundary marker (and thus, sub-instrumental)

   
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