Monthly Archives: August 2005

Housekeeping

We’re going ahead with the first edition of Volume Three of Hall’s Theological Outlines; better a complete version of an older edition than no third volume at all. Chapter Twenty-One of Volume Two is up (“Mysteries of Christ’s Exaltation”). And we’re firming up the list of cards for the “Top Trumps” version of the Theology Game, over in the comments of yesterday’s post.

I had a great email conversation with David Moore from the Participatory Culture Foundation; we’re looking into a way of setting up a Disseminary channel on DTV — audio only, for now — and Trevor’s pounding out the pixels on the site redesign. Are those pixels, or is it plaster dust?

Sermon: One of the readings is the beginning of Romans 12, and it’s hard for me to resist preaching on the verses, “ I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.” That fits harmonizes with the part of the Gospel that includes Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, “You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” On the other hand, when I start deciding ahead of time what point I want to make, I usually get blocked; I have to just let go, let the readings slop around in my mind for a few days, and wait for the hook to coalesce. We’ll see what happens.

Hollywood Theology

I’m not referring to Travolta’s Scientology or Gibsonian sedevacantism, but to the kind of theological thinking that adopts Hollywood’s standards of unambiguous right and wrong, with “right” gloriously triumphant and “wrong” stamped out in disgrace. Way, way too much of contemporary theological arguments operate at the level of sophistication one expects from a grade-B action drama, where the flawed protagonist is forgiven every lapse because he is the Good Guy, and this protagonist kills the despicable antagonist because he or she is the irredeemable Bad Guy. [Later: And all problems are resolved within a manageable duration of time: “OK, it’s been two hours; let’s wrap this up!”]

Contemporary polemics to the contrary notwithstanding, that approach oversimplifies doctrinal discernment to the point of falsification. Arius was not an evil conspirator, gleefully leading duped souls to perdition; he and his supporters were wrong, but not maleficent, as careful studies by a number of scholars (including ++Rowan Williams) shows. Whoever is right and whoever is wrong about the various topics that inflame our tempers, the problems won’t be settled by repeating “But we’re right, and we know it!” or by mockery or by counting votes. Anyone involved in the discussions might be wrong: I, you, your hero, my hero, anyone. When we presume to suppose that we can’t possibly have misread the signs of the times, or when we refuse to stipulate criteria by which our position could be discerned erroneous, or when we exacerbate division by amplifying the volume and intensity of theological debate at the expense of the truth, we’re propagandizing for ourselves, not glorifying God.

If we’re part of a school for sinners, there’s an unaccountable quantity of stones flying around here.

Disseminary Report

Theological Outlines, Chapter Twenty (“Mysteries of Christ’s Earthly Life”) is now, up, and in the comments thread on the “Top Trumps” entry, we’re making progress toward a basic version of the Theology Card Game of which Derek proposes a more elaborate version. And Trevor’s hard at work on the snazzy redesign of the site.

Mustn’t forget that I’m preaching Sunday.

[little note here from trevor: if anyone has a ready solution to the display problem on ie in both mac and windows platforms of the current version of the redesign I’d be happy to learn]

Something to Think About

From today’s New York Times article on “Intelligent Design”:

“All ideas go through three stages — first they’re ignored, then they’re attacked, then they’re accepted,” said Jay W. Richards, a philosopher and the institute’s vice president.

Note that: evidently “all ideas” will eventually be accepted, regardless of their soundness. Intelligent design has a future after all.

I tried to figure out a charitable reconstruction of this philosopher’s glib blunder, but the best I could come up with is something like, “All good ideas are ignored, then attacked, before they’re accepted.” It doesn’t have a catchy ring to it — but then, it’s not out-and-out false, either.

Why I Am Not In Church This Morning

Laura and I are dropping Si off at the airport this morning. He starts his Marlboro College entering-student team-building exercise tomorrow.

Kid Number One is launched.

Kid Number Two is launched.

Even though I’m not in church, I’m praying a lot, for Nate and for Si and for Pippa. I know Margaret and I couldn’t be prouder of any of them. You hear?

Take care, and God bless you all.
Laura and Si waiting at Midway Airport

[12:30 — Landed safely in Hartford. 15:00 — Safe in Brattleboro.]

Theology Game, Follow-Up

I’m impressed by the possible pedagogical value of Bryan’s suggestion of a “Top Trumps” model for a basic version of a Theology Cards game (in the Cluetrain-ed version of Top Trumps, someone gets word to the manufacturer that requiring people to register in order to learn about your product is not good Gonzo Marketing). Here’s an unofficial online example — I’m linking to Kings and Queens of England (Queen Anne had 19 children?!). The follow-up questions would be, what cards would one want (how many? what categories?) and how would one rate the various possible cards?

Anyone want to brainstorm?

Let’s Push Things Forward

Before I start ranting, today’s chapter from Hall’s Theological Outlines is Chapter Nineteen (“The Offices of Christ”). We’re getting close to the end of Volume Two, and none of my probes has yet turned up a copy of Volume Three, second edition, so if you’ve been holding out on me, this would be a good time to come clean. If not, we can just go ahead with the first edition — not as satisfactory a solution, and some risk of duplicating effort since the second edition is much revised, but better than nothing.

Now, yesterday brought some celebration and interesting conversation. Tripp will be at work wrangling audio files of readings from early church history, and he and Bruce (Mr. Musings) may be able to record a few psalms, hymns, and sacred songs performed by One of the Girls, which the Disseminary can then distribute. My colleague at Northwestern University, Richard Kieckhefer, put together a book of very brief introductory readings to topics theological and historical, suitable for parish educational purposes — I’m negotiating for the rights to publish that online through the Disseminary, too. And in the “We told you so” department, the Guardian reports that educators can make use of podcasts!”

By the same token, I’ve pleaded with several granting agencies to help produce textbooks that would obivate Beth’s and Frank’s (in the comments to Beth’s post) complaints, for online distribution. The premise is simple: commission introductory textbook chapters from a targeted community of scholars; pay them more than they would ordinarily expect to get for an essay on a given topic, which in real-world money is still not much; publish the individual chapters online and in a bound-together print-on-demand volume. The chapters are available to anyone with an internet connection, thus making the textbook by [scholarly subgroup of your specification] instantly the most accessible, affordable textbook in history. There’ll be a limited economic motivation for a for-profit publisher to produce an introduction to the New Testament by scholars of color, but if we can eliminate the profit motive (and add the philanthropy motive: “The Lilly foundation announces An Introduction to the New Testament by leading women scholars”), we can push things forward (apologies for the dreadful flash-glutted site; Mike Skinner, shame on you).

You say everything sounds the same
Then you go buy them!
There’s no excuses, my friend
Let’s push things forward.

All of this took place while Heather was hosting a merry, populous farewell party for Si, who now actually has to leave Evanston (lest someone write a song about “SiBorg’s Last Night in Town”).

Coming Up

Let’s see: I’m preaching at St. Luke’s on the 28th (reading Jeremiah 15:15-21/Psalm 26:1-8/Romans 12:1-8/Matthew 16:21-27), and on Sept. 24th (still not sure what I’ll be preaching from, but song of Songs seems to be a front-runner). I’m leading a Clergy Day in Northern Indiana on Sept. 14. My commentary on James has fallen entirely off the rails, though I will try again to get it going this morning afternoon.

Oh, and a shout-out to Derek at Haligweorc, who whipped up a proposal for a theology-cards game in between chapters of his dissertation. He and his colleagues at Open Thou Our Lips (Bending, Topmost, Monastery, ) are conducting some refreshingly deep theological conversation. You young people may not remember this, but Blogaria used to be a tiny little neighborhood, where you actually had time to keep up with interesting developments. . . .

Unquiet Mourning

I slept poorly, waking from a nightmare early in the morning (it involved a massacre, an image presumably evoked by Br. Roger’s murder). I’ve had a heap of financial details to square away.

Edward Tufte publicizes Charles Joseph Minard’s graph of Napoleon’s 1812 campaign in Russia as “the best statistical graphic ever drawn”; it displays the size of Napoleon’s army, the army’s location in Europe, the passage of time, and the temperature, all in a single extremely lucid presentation. That chart reminds me of our family finances — as the family disperses to various locations, supply lines get drawn thinner, and winter is coming on. We’re not in bad shape, but it’s all so darn complicated.

So in order to distract myself from visions of the Berezina River, I took the “Which Harry Potter character are you? Myers-Briggs quiz ” as much to see whether a short online quiz would return the same result that the longer, more elaborate version typically gives for me. Sure enough, it did: INFP, in this case supposedly Remus Lupin (the werewolf-Defense Against the Dark Arts professor of Prisoner of Azkaban, with whom I actually felt a strong pang of sympathy throughout).

Someday, I’ll have to take the Which Blogging Archetype Are You? quiz again, to find out if I’ve become myself after an interval of being David Weinberger.

Oh, and although we ran into a bit of a snag relative to Volume Three (Christ Church sent volume three of the full ten-volume Dogmatics, rather than volume three of the shorter Theological Outlines), I posted Chapter Eighteen (“The Properties of Christ”) of Theological Outlines. (No, he doesn’t always get Boardwalk and Park Place.) Anyone with a line on Volume Three, second edition, of the Theological Outlines, please let me know; otherwise, we’ll have to use the first edition, which Hall revised substantially for the second edition (unless the copyright holders of the third edition want to permit us to post that version).

Dreaming On

In the alternate reality where George Soros calls me up and funds the Disseminary with enough support actually to do all the great things we could do with the opportunity, we would be all over DTV. This is a giant step toward the right idea about digital video transmission, and I’m tickled pink that the Participatory Culture collective would launch this terrific app.

On the reality-based side, we have an arrangement for professional voice artists to record texts from early church history, which won’t amount exactly to podcasts — though we could always set up something like that, hmmm — and we published Chapter Seventeen (“The Person of Christ”) of Theological Outlines. If you’ve been up late worrying about the hypostatic union, this is a hot chapter for you. No, the Hypostatic Union did not just split off from the AFL-CIO.

Hostage Billing

As Jeneane’s recent experience shows, the hotel industry — it would be an overstatement to call it the hospitality industry, although some hotels can show hospitality (Margaret and I had a good time at the Metropolitan Hotel in our June trip to Toronto) — needs a thorough shaking. I’m still annoyed about our recent trip to South Bend, where a check-in clerk assigned us a room that the desk knew not to have working cold water in the shower. (I’m surprised to see that I didn’t blog about it; I think I must have wanted to wait till I could do so without losing my temper.)

The problem seems to lie with managers and executives who think of their hotels as pay toilets — they know you need to use it, and they reckon that they can extort payment from you because you’re in a hurry, or don’t see any alternative. Changing hotels causes more bother than putting up with inconvenience or overcharging. Somehow, though, I’d rather stay at an inn that thinks of itself in terms more commodious than “pay toilet with lumpy bed.”

When I temperately pointed out to the management of the venue at which we stayed that the clerk indicated that they checked me into a room in which they knew I wouldn’t be able to take a shower Saturday morning, I was accorded a twenty-dollar credit for the night’s lodging — a better deal than Jeneane’s been offered, but still way more than I’d have been willing to pay if someone had said, “We’ll give you this room without a shower for $50,” and more, I think, than I should be expected to pay for a nasty surprise. And Holiday Inns should positively hire Jeneane to work on their customer relations.

She’d set ’em straight about how to handle their internet connectivity, too, so Doc won’t be all over their sorry cases.