Monthly Archives: May 2007

Prize For Cluefulness

Top honors go to Concordia Seminary, for getting there first with the most. When Apple announced iTunes University, Micah tipped me off that Concordia already had copious course material ready to offer online for prospective students and anyone else who wants to learn about systematic theology, Greek, the weekly Bible readings, and various other topics. It’s great to see institutions putting the Disseminary model into practice, even if it turns out that I couldn’t be part of it.

But there’s still room to go. First, the Missouri Synod Lutherans leave a wide swath of the theological landscape open for technological evangelism. And although Concordia has hit some valuable, highly pertinent high points, it’s not as though their whole curriculum is online. I would advise an institution to keep their clips shorter; five to ten minutes will produce more digestible units without locking viewers into a time slot that demands more continuous attention. And of course, I’m not on the whole Missouri Synod Lutheran wavelength theologically. But a very impressive showing overall, Concordia — well done!

[Later: Also checking out Thomas Sheehan’s course at Stanford on the Historical Jesus. Sheehan’s not someone I would think to rely on for such a course; his syllabus notes Paula Fredriksen’s book From Jesus to Christ, but not her more a propos Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews; the other authors I would not have drawn on for such a course.]
Continue reading Prize For Cluefulness

In My End Is. . .

I taught the last session of New Testament 1 this morning; I’m through with classes till September 2008, hard as that is to imagine. We worked on apocalyptic literature, specifically the Revelation to John — a fitting topic for the final session.

But even as I was closing the books for the 2006-07 academic year, my attention came to the website of the “Arian Catholic Church,” evidently a contemporary resuscitation of Arian christology dressed up as an authentic ancient tradition. The site doesn’t say anything about where they’ve been between the Council of Constantinople and, say, last year — nor who ordained whom to serve as clergy (there’s a coy reference to “three Bishops sympathetic to the Arian Catholicism” having consecrated their new Archbishop of York. Mmmm hmmm. And their site repeats the groundless proposition that “at least 300 Holy scriptures were burned by the Roman Catholic church at the behest of Emperor Constantine during the fourth Century and much of the detailed history of Jesus’ life has been lost” and proposes that “there is powerful evidence that he spent time in Britain.” Right, got it.

On my last teaching day of the year, I’m thrown back on my Early Church History class.

Oh well; for the positive side (for a Latin learner and liturgical conservative), it looks as though Benedict XVI will permit more general use of the Latin Mass.

Market Opportunity

(A) The power brick for my computer gets very warm.

(B) My coffee cup cools off fairly rapidly.

Why hasn’t someone built a cupwarmer into a power brick? Or made an adapter that somehow channels the heat energy escaping from your brick to warm your coffee cup?

Patent pending.

Pentecost Leftovers

Michael has posted an exquisite series of photos at his Flickr area, celebrating Lily’s first Communion – she’s growing so fast! It seems like ages since we saw her.

Lily's First Communion

Yesterday we sang a hymn by Michael Hewlett that describes the Holy Spirit’s action apart from the people of Israel and the church:

His the truth behind the wisdoms
Which as yet know not the Lord

which struck me as an impressively nuanced way of making the theological point that divine truth can be known (albeit perhaps obscurely) apart from committed faith – especially impressive since Hewlett managed to say it in rhymed lyric.

That, in turn, reminded me of my favorite little-known Isaac Watts hymn verse, a Lesser Meter doxology:

Glory to God the Trinity
Whose name has mysteries unknown;
In essence One, in person Three;
A social nature, yet alone

Next time I’m in charge of a liturgy, I’ll try to work that one in.


Mustering my tattered energies, I put together a very short contribution to a project in which Blogaria’s own Mark Goodacre is involved: a textbook on methods of New Testament interpretation, with examples of each approach. My assignment was to describe “the history and theory of Theological interpretations of the New Testament” – in 700-800 words. The brevity was, of course, an attraction and an impediment at the same time. I managed to say most of what I wanted to, but goodness gracious, what gross oversimplification!

Now, to finish grading, produce three overdue lectionary essays, three overdue book reviews, and close out the academic year. (Mini-essay after the jump)
Continue reading Whew!

Gentle Suggestion (Or Opportunity to Relieve My Ignorance)

I was running through my group of Pippa’s images on Flickr, taking advantage of the option for flagging images as “Art/Illus” (as distinct from photographs, the originating premise of Flickr — a distinction that aroused some controversy). In the course of adding the “Art” flag where appropriate, I spotted a number of images that people had requested for particular Flickr groups. (This has happened to me, too; I stopped joining them after I joined “Bunny Lovers,” no I’m not kidding, so they could share the photo. But really, do I want to belong to a group called “Bunny Lovers”? I do not.)

Why can’t I share Pippa’s Lloyd Dobler poster with the “Johnny Everywhere” group without joining the group? I don’t mind if they look at it; I just am not that fascinated with pictures of people pretending to be John Cusack. Why can’t I share Pip’s sketch of the Nativity with the “creche” group without joining?

By the way, speaking of Pippa, she got her hair cut for the first time ever yesterday (I mean, cut as opposed to trimmed). I’ll try to elicit a picture of her as soon as I can.

JSTOR – And Retrieve

Tom has contributed a lovely investigation of JSTOR, its presence in Google’s search results, its firewalls, and its future. I’ve been following with interest as Tom earlier alluded to this exploration; what was he getting at? The conversation with Bruce Heterick unveils what had been shrouded.

JSTOR’s practices arise from a weird series of contingencies. Where once a robber-baron-cum-philanthropist would fund public libraries so that everyone had open access to knowledge, now foundations fund an operation that prevents access to information — though first it tantalizes the excluded inquirer with crumbs of the essays they may not consult. Because print constitutes so expensive a medium for academic journals, and because digital media emerged after the point where the tenure system and the post-baby-boom surge of grad students produced the current proliferation of minor journals and monograph series (made necessary in order to produce extrinsic credentials for the tenure-eligible academic scholar, or to burnish the credentials of the tenure-holder), print publication has become a watermark of genuine achievement. Even though more readers would benefit more from more useful digital publications, many academics quail at the thought of disseminating their work online. Likewise, the costly structure of printed professional journals – heightened by the cost of production, distribution, and archiving – necessitates limiting access to these.

Were I not loath to compare my friend to a former B-movie actor, I might wish that Tom exhorted his interlocutor, “Mr. Heterick, tear down these firewalls!”


It turns out that tomorrow is Towel Day, a memorial to author and geek icon Douglas Adams. That’s a neat coincidence, because on my note cards of topics to bring up in discussing Christopher Hitchens and so on, I had noted that Hitchens seems to be audtioning for the role of Oolong Coluphid in reality’s unfolding production of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

If you’re going to be an atheist — and I don’t doubt that you have a long list of good reasons, I’ve heard most of them, please trust me on this — you might as well take Douglas Adams for your model rather than the bombastic assassins of honest discourse. When Hitchens informs Prof. Glaude that the Princeton professor has been speaking “white noise,” I recognized a great deal more than what CH seems to have thought he was saying; Hitchen’s incapacity to make sense of Glaude’s points was very white indeed, and arrogant, and peevish.

Why not rather be gentle, funny, self-deprecating, and endearing? I don’t have anything particular against atheists, but I have developed a pronounced antipathy to Christopher Hitchens and his apologists. Tomorrow, I’ll raise a towel to Douglas Adams, with respectful disagreement.

Agenbite of Inwit

The Chris Lydon interview appears here, now.

As my head rested on the pillow last night I remembered an ill-considered (more to the point: unconsidered) expression. I gave a very harsh description of Alasdair MacIntyre’s writing style, an opprobrious description that a humbler and more thoughtful interviewee would have avoided. I assume Prof. MacIntyre has better things to do than listen to me on the radio, but if he was slacking last night and hears of this, I tender a heartfelt and embarrassed apology.

In my defense, Chris Lydon was rushing the interview at that point, and I was grasping at straws, trying to come up with authors whom I would recommend to the particular audience he seems to have attracted. I wanted to indicate my respect for MacIntyre, but to caution the radio audience that several orders of magnitude of readability separate his books from, let’s say, anything Christopher Hitchens has published. I was thinking particularly of Whose Justice? Which Rationality?, a particularly convincing-but-very-dense book. Sadly, that’s not what I said.


I can’t say with a high degree of confidence — I wasn’t listening, I was talking — but I think the conversation on Open Source went OK. Chris seemed pleased, Allen and I got along well and complemented one another. I didn’t have the chance to say a lot that I’d have wanted to, but I also don’t remember having said anything egregiously stupid.