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Most permalinks are still bad. Apologies.

Links to other blogs (left margin) will follow.

Posts for 2004 and 2005 are now accessible through the archives on the right.

As a rule, citation to with a date will get to the post, though it may take a little digging to find the date, even though URLs may change and be impermanant.



A young organist,
playing Sine Nomine.


Four Links

This has gone around, it's magnificent: Hallalujah Chorus in the Food Court of the Mall, Welland, Ontario, and Homepage of Chorus Niagara

This blog post at FreeRepublic Credits the organizers: Alphabet Photography, Robert Cooper and Chorus Niagara, The Welland Seaway Mall, and Fagan Media Group

Followup to a previous post on anti-semitism: ``Presbyterians Against Israel'' It's Wall Street Journal, and the link won't be free forever. This is ``just'' double-standards applied harshly and strictly against Israel and hardly at all to far worse actors, and so it is not ``real'' anti-semitism, but it does enable and foster the old-fashioned kind, as apparently here, in Venezuela.

Followup to a previous post on the new translations of the liturgy: There's more on the way to the new translations than is generally advertized.


New Creed Text

The new translations of the missal texts have changed "We believe" in the Nicene Creed to "I believe," on the rationale that the the canonical Latin text is singular.

But the Council Fathers at Nicaea wrote pisteuomen, not pisteuô, plural, not singular; and the Latin translation has credimus, not credo. See Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, with A History and Critical Notes, vol. II, pp. 57-59.

The standard Latin text with singular credo seems to date from the Council of Trent (p. 59, note 1). Whether the change was made earlier than that I do not know.

There is a widespread idea that the singular ("I believe" rather than "we believe") "reflects the personal and public choice" in the creed. This actually strikes me as dubious: my public choice is declared and manifest when I associate with the Church. This is both better sociology of knowledge and better philosophical anthropology: in street language, people believe whatever the people around them believe, and you choose what you believe when you choose your friends and associates.

(The reason they are all liberals in Boston and San Francisco and conservatives in Colorado Springs is not because they put adamantium fluoride in the water on the coasts and adamantium nitrate in the water in Colorado Springs (:-).)

I often depend on others to do my believing for me: in the trivial sense that much of the responsibility of knowing and articulating theology is delegated to others, even for a professional such as myself, but also in the deeper sense that I could not believe or commit to anything all by myself, without the presence of other people, co-believers. I can believe with --- or against --- a community, in support or prophetic criticism, but not without a community.

My conjecture is that the move to the singular formalized at Trent reflects a move in modern philosophy to a pronounced individualism; the Fathers at Nicaea knew better, and the biblical writers knew better. But the modern cultural commitment to individualism will not be budged.

There is a Monty Python skit enacting an amateur talent night, with John Cleese as a woman with a theory: a Theory of the Brontosaurus. Stripped of its humor (which may be stripped of its point, but the humor is not reproducable here), the theory is deceptively simple: It starts thin at one end, then gets thicker, then gets thin at the other end.

If you have a brontosauric theory about anything, you are doing very well: To know when something will start, how big it will get, how long it will last is more than most people know about anything in human affairs.

Monty Python, The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus: All The Words New York: Pantheon Books, 1989, 2 vols. Vol. 2, p. 118 has the Theory of the Brontosaurus.


Assymetrical Rhetoric

Mark Halperin, Wall Street Journal 2010-10-18, notes the assymetry of memory in disputes between Israel and its neighbors:
Conveniently forgotten is that the Jews accepted partition and the Arabs did not; that half the Palestinians who left in 1948 did so of their own volition; that more Jews left and were expelled from Arab countries than Arabs left and were expelled from Palestine; that Arabs were able to remain in Israel whereas the Arab states are effectively Judenrein; that Israel ceded the Sinai for a paper treaty, and Gaza in return for nothing but rockets and bombs; that, amidst a sea of Islamic states, it has accepted a Palestinian state while the Palestinians indignantly refuse to recognize it as a Jewish state; and that it was ready to compromise even on Jerusalem had Yasser Arafat been willing to take yes for an answer.


Bogner's Cafe

Lyrical flute: Bogner's Cafe, principally Robert Stallman, flutist There is more to come at the web-site, but many recordings by Stallman are out there. See Stallman at ArkivMusic.


Tolerance and Pluralism


Bruce S. Thornton, at Victor Davis Hanson's web papers, reflects on varieties of tolerance, in "Misunderstanding Muslim `Tolerance'"

Thornton calls the tolerance of expediency a tolerance imposed by rulers that is "more efficient at maintaining public order and protecting their power than oppression or violence." Tolerance of principle he roots in ancient Greek curiosity and openness to other cultures, that evolved into a "`live and let live' attitude that characterizes true tolerance." The distinctions are not new; under other terms, Edward Hobbs spoke of Thornton's "tolerance of principle" as pluralism, and Thornton's "tolerance of expediency" as mere tolerance. The paper was entitled Theological and Religious Pluralism: Pluralism in the Biblical Context, (Pacific Coast Theological Society, 1973). The roots of pluralism go back to the oldest levels of the Bible; they are not just Greek. The fact that they were compromised from time to time by exclusivism and suppression of plurality and pluralism (Hobbs, par. 2.5), a tendency that has persisted in the West ever since, does not lessen the more characteristic pluralism that has colored most of Western history.

The point is made at much greater length in Remi Brague, Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization (St. Augustines Press, 2009), which argues that Greek Christianity considered itself secondary to its Hebrew inheritance, and Latin Christianity after it considered itself secondary to both. This is the history that mediated to us the pluralisms of both the Greeks and the Jews.

Hobbs saw mere tolerance more as indifferentism than as an expedient in place of violence, because in 1973 he was dealing with problems other than those Thornton has in view. It is interesting, though, that Thornton sees his tolerance of expediency as taking advantage of Western indifferentism to impose itself on the West as a means of suppressing his tolerance of principle, what Hobbs called pluralism.

Perhaps it might be worthwhile to reexamine the prinicples that undergird true pluralism.


Fashionable Postmodern Liberal Anti-semitism

More Clearings

Postmodern antisemitism consists of applying a double standard, harshly against Israeli offenses (both real and imagined; more often than one might think, merely imagined), and not at all to worse offenses by others, especially Israel's neighbors and enemies.

Barbara Hollingsworth in the Washington Times reports survey research by Fred Gottheil that over 600 faculty urged the US to abandon its ally, Israel, but of them, only some 27 were willing to condemn "honor killing, wife beating, female genital mutilation, and violence against gays and lesbians."

Postmodern antisemitism is not the racist antisemitism of the nineteenth century or the Nazis, but it turns a blind eye to exactly that old-fashioned ethnic antisemitism as it occurs in Arab lands surrounding Israel. See for example Menahem Milson, ``What is Arab Antisemitism?'' , Memri special report no. 26.


Reflecting on the Flotilla Debacle

A Clearing

The unfortunate Israeli military inspection of ships trying to break the Gaza blockade puts many people in a new light, and forces all to make choices.

To be sure, for Israel it was a public relations disaster; one wishes that the Israelis could have handled it more deftly, and if possible without loss of life. But remember that the Israeli military inspectors looking for contraband were attacked, many injured, and they reacted in self-defence when their own lives were in danger. The bad faith of the Palestinians was shown when the Israelis trucked their humanitarian supplies from Ashdod, where the ship was unloaded, to the Gaza border, and the Hamas government refused to accept the supplies.

Dismayed by the international reaction that sided with the Hamas supporters pretending to be ``humanitarians'' instead of with Israel, Latma, an Israeli entertainment group, put together a satire on the ``humanitarians'' pretences, the Flotilla Choir (linked below at posts for June 3 and June 15).

Among comments that came to me, this:

>    I absolutely don't buy this.  The Muslim extremists 
>    tricked the Israelis into doing something stupid, 

That the ``flotilla'' was organized by extremists,
and that they set a trap for the Israelis is generally accepted. 

>    and the Israelis happily and stupidly cooperated.  
This is highly debatable, and nowhere more debated than in Israel.
A Jewish observer well-informed about Israel said,
"it is not enough to be right, you have to be smart."

>    Their criminal actions in 
>    international waters are unforgivable.  
The balance of legal argument as Eric Pozner sees it is that Israel is enforcing a legitimate blockade, against people who would put weapons in Gaza for the purpose of destroying Israel.

>    The Israelis, with our assistance, 
>    have become the Nazis of the Middle East!
This was uncalled for. Hopefully it was only an intemperate emotional outburst.

From Front Page Magazine,

"It is predominately understood that Israel was in the right in her actions during the latest operation against the Gaza flotilla. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on the mark when he unequivocally stated that Israel "will never apologize for defending itself." The problem is not always being right but also being strategic which is Israel's biggest challenge. Consequently, the world was "outraged" the UN was "shocked" and once again we can see how Israel is held to a double standard that no other country in the world is held to. Israel is expected to always behave morally and treat the Palestinians with silk gloves in order not to hurt or offend them in any shape or form. The Palestinians, meanwhile, can do no wrong even when they openly engage in acts of terrorism."

There is a useful distinction between the racist antisemitism of the 1930s (still very much alive in the Middle East) and the fashionable postmodern antisemitism of Western elites: the postmoderns set up a double standard, in which perfect behavior is expected of Israel, but terrorists and those who would candidly like to finish what Hitler began are ignored or get only a perfunctory dismissal.

Walter Russell Mead recalls the appeasers in the 1930s; A little harsh wording, but not entirely wrong. Appeasement is a vice that began as a virtue, the desire to think well of other people, on the chance that they may act well in response. With self-deception, when thinking well of the wicked is no longer plausible, appeasement becomes a thorough vice: The desire to avoid the obligations of opposing evil that the situation calls for. When there is a recent (twentieth-century) record of appeasement and its catastrophic consequences, self-deception becomes more reprehensible. The appeasers were enablers necessary for Hitler to succeed.

Barack Obama is at best confused. (The real situation may be much worse than that; see Caroline Glick below.) PowerlineBlog, quoting Obama:

"With respect to the broader issue of lifting the blockade, as I said before, I think the key here is making sure that Israel's security needs are met but that the needs of people in Gaza are also met. And it seems to us that there should be ways of focusing narrowly on arms shipments, rather than focusing in a blanket way on stopping everything and then, in a piecemeal way, allowing things into Gaza."
The blog continues, commenting:
"As so often with Obama, you wonder: what the heck is he talking about? Does he imagine that there is some magical means by which Israel can identify the ships that are carrying arms, and only stop those?"
One wonders what planet Obama is living on.

Front Page Mag explains the terrorist strategy:

"We will try to force you to kill civilians accidentally. We won't care but will use this to persuade many that you are evil. Thus, we will simultaneously murder your civilians and get you condemned as human rights violators."
"We will claim to be victims and ``underdogs.'' Because you are the stronger and more ``advanced'' that means you are the villains. We're not held responsible for our deeds or expected to live up to the same standards. There is no shortage of, to quote Lenin, ``useful idiots'' who will echo our propaganda."

This is normally a theological weblog,
and there are theological implications to what has happened.

First, a definition of self-deception: one is self-deceived who systematically does not spell out accurately what he is doing. Often there is a cover-story, one that is ``true'', put out to distract attention from what is really happening. See Herbert Fingarette, Self Deception (1968 and Univerity of California Press, 2000), chapter 3.

At the grossest level, what the appeasers are doing
benefits those who say they want to finish what Hitler began.

The sin in the appeasement temptation is a form of despair, a turning away from the demands and obligations one faces (See Josef Pieper, On Hope (Ignatius Press, 1986.) In Kierkegaardian terms (Sickness Unto Death), it is the despair of apathy, not the despair of will-to-power, though interestingly, in this case, the apathy enables will-to-power in terrorists and old-fashioned antisemites. As Pieper has it, it is one of the daughters of sloth --- the traditional Thomist term for what Kierkegaard calls apathy.

The postmodern anti-semitism of double standards serves a despair of apathy: it refuses a US role in the world that is not particularly welcome. It would be so much easier to sit back and let others keep the peace. But realistically, if the US doesn't do it, it won't be done, and the world will slip back into violence, barbarism, and destruction. The job of defending civilization and peace will inevitably be carried out with blunders, some wrong-doing, and self-interest, but it's better than the alternatives available.

There is a hymn that used to be in several Protestant hymnals, but has in more than one case been deleted in recent revisions, because it offends Liberal sensitivities.

Once to every man and nation,
comes the moment to decide,
in the strife of truth with falsehood,
for the good or evil side;
some great cause, some great decision,
offering each the bloom or blight,
and the choice goes by forever,
'twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble,
when we share her wretched crust,
ere her cause bring fame and profit,
and 'tis prosperous to be just;
then it is the brave man chooses
while the coward stands aside,
till the multitude make virtue
of the faith they had denied.

Words: James Russell Lowell, 1849
Music: Ton-y-Botel (Ebenezer), Yn y glyn 

The process of decision is illustrated in the movie Swing Kids (directed by Thomas Carter, 1993). Teen-age fans of American jazz music in Hamburg in the 1930s are forced unwilling into the Hitler Youth, the "HJ". We watch two of them, Peter Mueller and Thomas Berger, grow into a decision about where they really stand.

Mueller solidifies against the HJ and the Nazis, growing into the opposition of his father, who was hauled off by the Nazis before the movie starts. Berger gradually, in ways he does not spell out to himself, grows deeper into the HJ and the Nazis. His decision and self-deception grow, yet in the end, he is not entirely lost, for he sees a little of what he has chosen and decided.

As the movie ends, Mueller is sent to a work-camp. Berger, in the HJ, sends him off. There is hope for Berger in his moment of realization, but not much, for he has ratted his father to the Gestapo earlier. He is committed.

Robert Sean Leonard is magnificent as Peter Mueller, but Christian Bale is simply breathtaking as Thomas Berger. Berger's tranformation will make your blood run cold.

The IMDB tagline for the movie: "In a world on the brink of war. You either march to one tune or dance to another." Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where no matter what we do, we choose. Once to every man and nation indeed.

Were it spelled out, in a situation of crisis, the fashionable postmodern antisemitism of double standards applied against Israel would have to admit that it has been supporting the old-fashioned racist 1930s antisemitism --- or else change radically, come clean, and support the state of Israel.

There are disturbing reports ( Caroline Glick, June 15, and JPost) that such is gradually happening: Barack Obama is not quite overtly backing Hamas, and has indirect ties with them that go a long way back.


Video has moved

The Flotilla Choir Has Moved

The video of the Flotilla satire has moved: At Ed Morrissey at Hot Air and at WeJew.


We Con the World

The Flotilla Choir Sings

They satirize (Youtube video here), the pretense that the Hamas flotilla were peaceful humanitiarians. The ``humanitarians'' attacked the Israelis who boarded their ship to search for weapons in violation of the blockade of Gaza.

More on Inglis's Biography of Collingwood

2010 May 19

Questions arise for theological readers of Inglis's biography, questions that may not be evaded, though for the present I do not have answers. One of them is old: Why did Collingwood not treat Ernst Troeltsch in the section on German historiography in The Idea of History? Troeltsch worked on Collingwood's problem before Collingwood did: the differences between history and nature, the importance of history in the humanities, avoiding psychologism as a way of naturalizing history. In all these, Troeltsch would have been Collingwood's ally, though Troeltsch may well have been RGC's adversary with respect to idealism.

One can imagine many possible reasons why Collingwood did not deal with Troeltsch. Troeltsch's driving concrete problems were with the historical claims of Christianity; Collingwood's arose in the context of Roman Britain.

A different question is why Inglis does not mention the question of Troeltsch. Is it because Inglis dismisses the historical claims of Christianity (he does not say what he takes those claims to be) as ``strictly incredible'' (p. 332)? One can easily conjecture what Inglis had in mind in ways that make his remark simply true, or a misinterpretation and a misreading, or false, simply wrong. Which one is correct I do not know. Conjectures are merely that, and I am not a mind-reader.

The question of Troeltsch is unavoidable for anyone with even a half-decent non-fundamentalist seminary education in Bible, because the problem of historical claims has attracted a considerable literature in theology, and Troeltsch figures prominently in that history. My own mind was pre-disposed to respect history by reading The Idea of History in high-school (Inglis would say the VI Form), and when I came to seminary out of curiosity, the problem had to be treated more seriously, i.e., with Troeltsch. I couldn't make much progress with the resources in The Idea of History, but the Germans (of whom Troeltsch was only one) were much more fruitful. Later on, I would say that Alasdair MacIntyre solved Troeltsch's problem of historical relativity in his own concept of ``tradition-bound rationality,'' but that is a long story for some other time.

All of which is not really a complaint about Collingwood; it indicates my enormous debt to him, and my gratitude that The Idea of History was assigned to me at an early age. Without Collingwood, I would never have come to modern biblical scholarship or to the Germans.

My own working out of the historical claims appears in summary form in In the Beginning, Exodus; The Bible Then and Now. It is not technical, but it does give the general shape and idea of claims that are not in the least incredible. If I may make a conjecture, I don't think the problem for seculars is with the historical claims of biblical religion but rather with transcendence, the problem of pain and suffering. Biblical religion is not incredible, it's just too difficult.

The question of Troeltsch occurs in a larger context that obligates me to some gratitude to Inglis for his last chapter. Inglis doesn't offer much technical guidance to Collingwood's philosophy, but that is quite available from other sources. The last chapter is about selected figures influenced by Collingwood, with a little information about Inglis's own position. It is the last that helps readers to appraise his biography of Collingwood. Without knowing something of Inglis's position, it is hard to question his selection of material for inclusion in the book, unless one is a Collingwood expert who could have written the biography himself, which I am not. The material on Collingwood's followers might have seemed gratuitous, but it is not. It enables us to place both Collingwood and Inglis, and for that I am grateful.

More on Collingwood

2010 May 16

A little digging with google turns up what may or may not be a painting of the SS Rhesus; I have no way to tell. The painting is by Colin Verity. This is an auction sale-flyer, and so the URL is not likely to remain valid for very long. It contains an image of the painting that is quite detailed.

It was on board the Rhesus, returning from Java, that Collingwood wrote the Essay on Metaphysics.

Biography of R. G. Collingwood

2010 May 12

Fred Inglis has published a biography of R. G. Collingwood, History Man: The Life of R. G. Collingwood (Princeton University Press, 2009).

It fills in quite a bit of detail beyond what was in Collingwood's own Autobiography, which was largely limited to the conduct of his central disagreements in philosophy. Those who love Collingwood's work will find many of their questions answered here.

Inglis's web-page.

A little digging with google turns up what was probably the ship Alcinous on which Collingwood sailed out to the Dutch East Indies in 1938. It is about a third of the way down the page. Google turns up two or three other ships of the same name, but they are implausible for various reasons (dates are wrong).

Coverdale Psalter

2009 June 16

The Coverdale Psalter (circa 1535) was typeset in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer as prose, that is to say, with each verse beginning a new paragraph, presumably in order to save paper.

The text is long in the public domain, and here is a tar file with source text as LaTeX code to print the Coverdale Psalter typeset as verse, so that one may see how it looks in the style of a modern translation.

An Acknowledgement

2009 May 19

When I wrote the article ``Physik'' in 2003 for the 4th edition of Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, it seemed appropriate to give some idea of the various sub-disciplines in physics, and there are many lists of them. The one I started from came from a college course catalog on-line, and read approximately as follows: "Copernican astronomy, Newtonian mechanics and causality, the concepts of momentum and energy, entropy and probability, relativity, quantum theory and a very revised notion of causalty, conservation principles and symmetries." My wording was actually amended some from the wording on the internet; I also added an eighth concept, variational principles. The RGG editors translated it into German, and an English edition is forthcoming.

Five years later I discovered that the list had a published source, Nathan Spielberg and Bryon D. Anderson, Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe. Second edition. New York: Wiley, 1995.

It appears to be an excellent introduction to physics for non-majors, and one fairly illuminating for serious physicists as well.

Global Warming: the Creationism of the Ruling Class


From all the wisecracks on the net about Global Warming being a religion, it becomes pretty clear that Global Warming is the Creationism of the Ruling Class.

As a computational physicist (PhD, UC Davis, 1976), even though climate simulation is not my specialty, I know how fragile are claims in any attempt to simulate real world systems of complicated partial differential equations.

As a theologian (GTU, PhD, 1991) familiar with nature religions, I recognize the religion of Global Warming instantly. It is the aboriginal nature religion everywhere: if you mess with nature, nature will take its revenge on you. That is the meaning of life --- and so it is, for Global Warming enthusiasts.


Recall that horrid place, at (2005/01/26),
``You know well what a horrid place is prayer.
Coax us into this holy line of battered men'' ??

Try reading Godric . He spent 40 years gallivanting around, then retreated to a hovel on the Wear near Durham and spent 65 years in prayer. Fairly racy, and baudy, for a story about a man on his knees. Reginald's biography of him is truly pious. Buechner's imagination in recovering the truth of the man from Reginald's efforts to clean it up is quite amazing.

Page 131, Godric recounts escapades of the local acolytes. Reminds me of the legend of St. Bartholomew's, Livermore, when sometime in the 1960s, the acolytes put Scotch in the wine cruets; and in the middle of a mass, what could the celebrant or the eucharistic ministers do?

Remi Brague, Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization.

A very simple thesis, with a lot of rich detail accompanying it.

The Latin West has always thought itself secondary in culture, and doubly so: The Romans thought that for culture, you had to go someplace else, namely Greece. And the Christian West, that for religion, you had to go someplace else, namely to the Bible, most of which is from Hebrew sources.

The result was a graced secondarity, not a graceless inferiority or an other-ignoring superiority. This is the root of the West's perpetual interest in, and value of, other cultures.

The pivotal crisis was in the second century, when the Church decided, against Marcion, to keep the inherited Hebrew scripture in its entirely.

The Greek East viewed the Greek literature as its patrimony, and took it for granted. Islam translated what it wanted and ignored the rest, content with its own superiority.


Adrian Remodo, Blog

This turned up in a google search for stuff about Paul Ricoeur. The links will take you to Adrian Remodo, blogger in Lagonoy, Bikol, in Camarines Sur province in the Philippines, in the southeast of Luzon. You get to see pictures of Remodo beating his noggin on a copy of Scheler's Ressentiment. My admiration -- when I was 25, I couldn't do that. The link to Kristian Cordero will take you to his poetry and Cordero's parish, St. Anthony of Padua, which appears to be at least 423 years old.

The latest issue of The American Interest has ``Between Relativism and Fundamentalism,'' by Peter Berger. Beyond what is available of the text on the magazine's web-site, Berger observes that modernity has meant ``a gigantic shift in the human condition from one of fate to one of choice'' (p. 12, left column). This is to observe that the Exodus, an exodus from nature into history in the third millenium BCE, that is, an exodus from fatedness to the openness and choices of living in history, has been thrust on most everybody today.

He continues, a bit later: ``For many people, at least in the early stage of the process, this change is experienced as a great liberation -- as indeed it is. But especially after a while, it may be experienced as a burden from which one wants to be freed.'' The Israelites complained to Moses in the wilderness, ``were there not graves enough in Egypt, that you had to bring us out here, into the desert, to die?'' (Exodus 14:11, loosely.) Berger continues: ``There ensues an often desperate quest for certainty, and where there is a demand, someone will proffer a supply. This is where the fundamentalists come in'' (p. 12, right column). ``Come and join us, and we will give you certainty as to what to believe, how to live, and who you are'' (p. 13, right column).

Berger dissents from the (nihilistic) relativism that seems to be the origin of this mess, but does not offer much in the way of non-``fundamentalist'' remedies.

A Jewish friend once remarked to me about the coming together of many ethnic traditions in the Exodus and before, with all their gods, that the only thing they could agree on was the legal matter in the Torah. The rest was irreconcilable, and was fused together only by a narrative that assimilated all the gods into one, and made all the tribes relatives of one another. We have yet to hammer out a new legal code of what is acceptable in society and what is not.

Even more, we have no theory of pluralism, nor for living with the openness of history, nor for why some choices are better than others. That work remains to be done.

But as far as it goes, Berger's article is quite helpful.

Here is the full text of the Pope's remarks that elicited such a furore in the Islamic world. I've not read them yet, and cannot comment. From the comments I do hear from friends, the Pope's main interest was not really centered on violence in the name of religion, but that question will have to wait a few days.

Here is a report of the Howard government's ``reading the riot act to the imams'' in Australia:

The Howard Government's multicultural spokesman, 
Andrew Robb, yesterday told an audience of 100 imams 
who address Australia's mosques that 
these were tough times requiring great personal resolve.
Mr Robb also called on them to shun a victim mentality 
that branded any criticism as discrimination.

"We live in a world of terrorism where evil acts 
are being regularly perpetrated in the name of your faith," 
Mr Robb said at the Sydney conference.

"And because it is your faith that is being 
invoked as justification
for these evil acts, it is your problem.

"You can't wish it away, or ignore it, 
just because it has been caused by others.

"Instead, speak up and condemn terrorism, 
defend your role in the way of life 
that we all share here in Australia."

It's about time someone talked some sense.

This link to a story in the Daily Mail was posted on Instapundit, news that the Pope has apparently fired George Coyne, SJ, as head of the Vatican Observatory, because the Pope did not agree with Coyne's opposition to Intelligent Design creationism. The news is reported somewhat differently at Catholic News, without mention of Intelligent Design. Father Coyne is 73, of a retirement age, so there may or may not be controversy here. There is more commentary here.

Father Coyne protested when Cardinal Schoenborn published in favor of Intelligent Design, a year or so ago. Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett commented here.

More interesting comment here, with background on Fr. Funes, George Coyne's successor at the VO.

In my highly opinionated opinion, the concepts pertinent to disentangling evolutionary biology from Christian theology don't work the way that ID proponents think they do, but that is an argument far too long for a blog post. It was the subject of Where, Now, O Biologists, Is Your Theory? Intelligent Design as Naturalism By Other Means (Cover photo here )

More: A blog entry here indicates that this was not a firing, but merely normal retirement:

As a long-standing member of the Board of the Vatican Observatory
Foundation, and even longer-term friend of Fr. Coyne, I can assure
readers that the appointment of his successor, Fr. Funes, is part of
normal succession planning which the Board has been discussing for
several years. After a well-deserved sabbatical, Fr.Coyne will
continue his association with the Observatory and the Foundation,
assisting the Board and Fr. Funes.

 Charles Currie, S.J.    Aug 23, 03:23 PM 


DZ Phillips, RIP

This came to me on the Society of Christian Philosophers listserv:

Professor D. Z. Phillips, who died on 25 July 2006, enjoyed a long  
and distinguished academic career spanning four decades at The  
University of Wales, Swansea, where he was Professor Emeritus, and  
Director of the Rush Rhees Archives.   He also held the Danforth  
Chair in Philosophy of Religion at Claremont Graduate University,  
             From 1959 until 1961, he was Minister of Fabian Bay  
Congregational Church, Swansea. Phillips began his academic career at  
Queen s College, Dundee, in 1961, before joining the University  
College of North Wales, Bangor in 1963.  He became a lecturer at  
Swansea in 1965, and a Professor of Philosophy in 1971. In 1982, he  
became Dean of the Faculty of Arts, until 1985, and he was Vice- 
Principal from 1989 until 1992.  In 1996 he became the Rush Rhees  
Professor Emeritus in the Department of Philosophy, a position he  
held until his death.
             Phillips gave many endowed lectures during his academic career  
including the Cardinal Mercier Lectures (Leuven), Marett Lecture  
(Oxford), Riddell Lectures (Newcastle), McMartin Lectures (Ottawa),  
Hintz Lecture (Tucson), the Aquinas Lecture (Oxford), and Vonhoff  
Lectures (Groningen).
             His research interests were in the areas of philosophy of  
religion, ethics, philosophy and literature, and Wittgenstein.  His  
best known works, from over 20 books, include: Faith and  
Philosophical Enquiry, The Concept of Prayer, Religion without  
Explanation, and Faith after Foundationalism.
             Professor Phillips leaves a wife, Monica, and three sons,  
Steffan, Rhys, and Aled, and four grandchildren, Ceri, Bethan, Sian  
and Emyr.

I remember when I first met DZ, in an elevator in a hotel near Cal State Fullerton for a regional AAR meeting. He had said something, and someone else said, ``Oh, you're English?'' He replied in the negative, and after she tried Scottish and Irish, he had to sheepishly say, ``Welsh.'' He could sing -- I think that's a tradition in Wales -- as he demonstrated at an after-dinner amateur hour at that meeting. And despite his somewhat dry philosophical caution in his critical response to the pronounced rationalism of English analytic philosophy of religion, he was quite capable of enjoying himself, life, and the people around him. He is missed, and the world is poorer without him.



Belatedly, watching Israel doing its best to eliminate Hezbollah: Much of the criticism has been self-righteous and selective, effectively condemning Israel for defending itself. We are told that Lebanon and its civilians are ``innocent'': I'm sorry, but when you host terrorists, when you allow terrorists to hide behind your civilians, when your civilians willingly shelter terrorists, when your army announces that it will side with Hezbollah against Israel, you have only yourself to blame.

Even the Vatican is reported to have fallen for this ruse; a stance that is disappointing for this Catholic, to say the least.

When I watched the Lord of the Rings DVDs, I enjoyed them greatly, despite my frustrations with the omissions and deviations from the books. It seemed to me that the movies are just action movies, albeit very good action movies (as one would expect, with plot and characters rented from the Tolkien estate).

The books are not about action but about food, poetry, and hospitality. And about a moral challenge of much more subtlety than the movie can show; at least with the talents of Peter Jackson and his actors. One lesson of the books is that when faced with great moral challenges, you will get help from surprisingly many people who offer you hospitality along your way. But it would seem that making a movie about food, poetry, and hospitality is impossible.

Not so! Babette's Feast is a counter-example. The movie is set in a pious hamlet in rural western Denmark. Babette, a refugee from France, is a mere kitchen servant, but she wins the lottery and with the winnings puts on a feast in honor of the birthday of the deceased pastor. In the process, the piety of the Danes is shown to be open to improvement. (Danes seem to be extremely hard on themselves w/r/t their own spirituality! The Curmudgeon of Copenhagen can stand as witness.)

In any case, the film is precisely about food, poetry (albeit in small quantities, hymns), and hospitality. It can be done, with good acting.

Here's an example of how character in the book was changed into action in the movie, and it happens in a hospitality scene, albeit one where the guest is not entirely welcome. In The Two Towers, When Gandalf persuades Theoden King of Rohan to put aside his enfeeblement by Grima Wormtongue, the spy from Saruman, there are no special effects, no magic. In the movie, the scene is transformed into a New Testament healing miracle, an exorcism, very magical: the demon of Saruman is driven out of Theoden, visibly.

Filming the scene as it is in the book would have required acting of Shakespearean ability.

But how droll it is that Peter Jackson figured that his audiences would understand a NT healing miracle easily but would have trouble with the real character change in the book.


Rumpole and Euthanasia

The public understands euthanasia quite well, as we can see from a TV show of nearly 20 years ago: Rumpole, in the episode ( ``Rumpole and the Quality of Life'' (1988)), unravels a murder in the following circumstances:

Sir Daniel Derwent, rich and famous painter
Lady Perdita Derwent, the wife
	charged with the murder on circumstantial evidence
	(planted in her room, as it later turns out)
Helen Derwent, daughter of the artist by an earlier marriage
Barbara Derwent, the mother of the artist.

The artist turns up dead of an overdose of diamorphine, which he was taking for some serious medical condition. But he was up and painting earlier in the day.

He has left everything in his will to his wife, but, as it comes out under cross-examination, he has also already provided handsomely for his daughter and mother. It looks as if the young wife killed him for the money; but if she is convicted, she will get none of what she would soon have inherited anyway, and it will all go to the mother and daughter instead. Rumpole suspects the mother and daughter, but suggests suicide at trial, not having enough proof of murder. He points out sufficient possibilities other than what the prosecution claims, and the wife/client is acquitted. (Rumpole's clients don't always get off; just usually.)

In the hallway outside the courtroom waiting for the verdict after closing arguments, Rumpole sits down next to the mother, who is knitting. She is a member of the Across the River Society, which promotes euthanasia; Rumpole has suspected euthanasia.

Rumpole asks, ''You are a member of the Across the River Society, aren't you?''

She dodges the question and says of her son the artist, ``He couldn't paint anymore. He wouldn't want to live if he couldn't paint.''

Rumpole: ``Are you sure?''

Mother: ``Oh, absolutely positive. It was for the best.''

Rumpole accuses her of putting the lethal dose of diamorphine in the artist's omelet.

Mother: ``What are you trying to say, Mr. Rumpole?''

Rumpole: ``Oh, nothing complicated; only that you took those ampoules from Nurse Gregson's bag, you knew exactly what they looked like, and you got the contents into your son's food. Then Helen found them, and planted them. [i.e., in the wife's room.] But what I'd like to know is this.''

Mother, in surprise: ``There's something you don't know?!'' (She has continued knitting all the while, without the slightest distress or disturbance.)

Rumpole (with some indignation): ``Did you discuss this sudden decision to take your son's life with him at all? What were his views on the subject?''

Mother: ``There was no need for any discussion. A mother knows, Mr. Rumpole. A mother always knows.''

The scene cuts to the courtroom, where the jury (of course) acquits Rumpole's client, the widow, Lady Derwent.

What the story attests, albeit in fiction, is that the general public understands exactly what is involved in euthanasia: it will be involuntary and done to the victim, not on the basis of what the victim wants and has asked for, but on the basis of what the victim ``would'' want, simply because the perpetrators don't want the discomfort of discussing it with the prospective victim.

But it is their discomfort they wish to avoid, as is well attested already in the Netherlands. And in all probability the public understands that, too, whether they sympathize with the mother or not.

This sort of euthanasia requires only one presupposition for its legitimacy: that it is not only permissible to seek death as a remedy for pains one would rather not bear, but to help another do so. Then when death is defined to be a good that one person can give another, the way is open for euthanasia.

The necessary presupposition is planted by much less than legalizing euthanasia candidly; merely legalizing ``physician-assisted suicide'' will suffice, while piously appearing not to condone euthanasia at all.

In 1988, when the Rumpole episode was shot, the ``implied reader'' viewed euthanasia as murder; today, it is debatable.


Brother Mark

A new blog, Brother Mark, notes that ``God is in the house, waiting for a house call,'' and we are embarrassed.

Sounds like things haven't changed much since golden-age Denmark; speaking of embarrassment, look at Kierkegaard, in the Postscript, p. 207-208 of the Swenson and Lowrie translation, about the dapper post-doc who said

``I have not indeed believed, but so much have I honored Christianity that I have employed every hour of my life in pondering it.'' Or suppose that there came one of whom the accuser had to say: ``He has persecuted the Christians,'' and the accused replied, ``Aye, I admit it; Christianity has set my soul aflame, and I have had no other ambition than to root it from the earth, precisely because I perceived its tremendous power.'' Or suppose there came another, of whom the accuser would have to say: ``He has abjured Christianity,'' and the accused replied, ``Aye, it is true; for I saw that Christianity was such a power that if I gave it a little finger it would take the whole man, and I felt that I could not belong to it wholly.'' But then suppose there finally came a dapper Privatdozent with light and nimble steps, who spoke as follows, ``I am not like these three; I have not only believed, but I have even explained Christianity, and shown that as it was expounded by the Apostles and appreciated in the early centuries it was only to a certain degree true; but that now, through the interpretation of speculative philosophy it has become the true truth, whence I must ask for a suitable reward on account of my services to Christianity.'' Which of these four must be regarded as in the most terrible position? It is just possible that Christianity is the truth; suppose that now when its ungrateful children desire to have it declared incompetent, and placed under the guardianship of speculative philosophy, like the Greek poet whose children demanded that the aged parent be placed under a guardian, but who astonished the judges and the people by writing one of his most beautiful tragedies as a sign that he was still in the full possession of his faculties --- suppose that Christianity thus arose with renewed vigor: there would be no one else whose position would become as embarrassing as the position of the Privatdozents.

But perhaps Brother Mark really did have current events on his mind, and my response here is about something that has always troubled me (and not him) --- for SAK's indictment stings me as a philosophical theologian in the tradition that says that theology really does have some obligations of philosophical candor and clarity, even if the chosen philosophy is not ``speculative'' (i.e., the Hegel of Kierkegaard's day). Trying to discharge those obligations always courts SAK's accusations against the post-docs. About current events, my instinct is that of the Catholic bishops in their sensible moments, when they leave current events to well-catechized competent lay people (aka the relevant opinion press, which this blog is not).

Permalinks are still bad. Apologies. To be fixed some day. Real Soon Now.



The Evolution book is out,
Where, Now, O Biologists, Is Your Theory? Intelligent Design as Naturalism By Other Means

It is available from Wipf and Stock Publishers, 199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3
Eugene OR 97401
(541) 344-1528 voice


Dangerous Literature

Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, vol. 3, p. 163:

There is no denying that modern literature is dangerous. The sole response worthy of the criticism it provokes, of which Wayne Booth is one of the most highly esteemed representatives, is that this poisonous literature requires a new type of reader: a reader who responds.
That's enough to wake the sleepy philosophy student up!

Literature is dangerous, and TV is not? ?!
After Jerry Mander, it will never be the same!


Cartoons Again

One of the best cartoon responses ...



The cartoons ...


Satirizing Religion

It seems that a Danish paper, the Jyllands-Posten, has published cartoons of the founder of Islam and violent partisans of that religion are all upset about it. (To their credit, there are some reasonable Muslims who are more offended by the protestors than by the cartoons.) As usual, Glenn Reynolds of Instapudnit fame had lots of coverage and links. For details, go there. More details at the wikipedia (How's that for an up-to-date encyclopedia!) By the way, The idea that you're not allowed to depict the Prophet visually is hogwash. I was going to link to the cartoons themselves, but can't find them on the net. Don't know whether that's good or bad.

When pictures like these are on the net, why bother to caricature what caricatures itself?

That having been said, let's look at caricatures of religion closer to home. Hollywood is deeply Christophobic, in bad taste, and often in contempt of both truth and morality, but that is Hollywood's First Amendment right. More to the point, any rule against religiously offensive speech would prohibit treasures such as Mel Brooks History of the World, Part I or Monty Python's Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life.

This is not trivial or irrelevant: the so-called ``Religious Right'' has recently succeeded in getting NBC to cancel a coming TV series, ``The Book of Daniel,'' about a dysfunctional Episcopalian clergy family. Daniel, the husband and father, is a priest. (Was he to be an Anglo-Catholic, an Evangelical, a Liberal? Did he go to Nashotah House, Virginia, or EDS? We may never know.) There's a little bit of detail about the show here, but it probably won't last long on the net. Reviews, alas, were not very good.

The idea of conservative Evangelicals defending liberal Episcopalians from criticism is beyond bizarre; it is grotesque. They say fact is stranger than fiction! I trust my Episcopalian friends were looking forward to the show, as I was (I used to be an Episcopalian, and have enormous debts of gratitude to the Episcopal Church.) A TV show about a dysfunctional clergy family? That's too juicy, and too true!

Back to Monty Python: The Life of Brian was intended to offend, but Monty Python has a heart of gold, and they failed. At least they failed if you know a little about the Gospels that were being parodied: the theology in Brian is a remarkably good approximation to the theology in the Gospel of Mark. The disciples are power-crazy, not too smart, and Jesus never really gets through to them. Luke, as the scholars say, ``spares the twelve'' -- he cleans up the text and softens the criticism of the disciples. For details about Mark, see Theodore J. Weeden Sr.'s article ``The Heresy that Necessitated Mark's Gospel,'' Zeitschrift für Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 59 (1968) 145. (It's in English, don't panic!) The Gospels are SUPPOSED to be offensive, and Monty Python succeeded in being understood. When we read the text of the Gospels (the gospels in the Bible, that is) we all too easily become ``just precious,'' as the Church Lady would say. (Where is the Church Lady when we need her?)

Or consider The Meaning of Life, the Mystery of Birth, Part II: The Third World (Yorkshire). It is an off-color song about a Catholic family that does not contracept, and so has dozens (many dozens) of kids. I looked at that scene and said to myself, ``if there's room for all those kids, there might even be room for me.'' So I became Catholic. (What makes you think I'm pulling your leg? I agree with Humanae Vitae ; see chapter 12 of Elementary Monotheism.)

If the Religious-Right censors in Colorado Springs had their way, none of this would have been allowed.

Brian ends in a mass-crucifixion scene, and the crucifixees sing a song -- again, intended to be offensive, and again, a failure:

Always look on the Bright Side of life
Always look on the Light Side of Life

There is a legend, and I emphasize the word legend (those who know a little biblical criticism will know that the connections between legend and fact are sometimes tenuous) about this song. In the 1982 Falkland Islands War, HMS Sheffield, a high-tech destroyer, had turned off its defensive radars because its defensive radars were interfering with radio traffic back to Britain about more important matters (laundry lists, love letters, etc.). An Argentine Exocet missile hit the boat and ignited it. The officers decided that the damage could not be fixed on the spot, and so they ordered the crew to abandon ship, so it could be towed to salvage. As the enlisted men got into boats, they sang ``Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.''

This is not in the printed histories of the events. (The Wiki does seem to know the legend, though without details; scroll down some.) As the legend continues in the form it came to me, the Royal Navy line officers were scandalized (Monty Python is supposed to be offensive, and some are gullible enough to take offense), and they classified the incident. The Royal Navy intel officers were not scandalized, and they were in cahoots with US Navy intelligence, who had been feeding them satellite data. On this side of the Atlantic, the singing was of course no longer classified, and one person told another, and then another, and eventually the legend came even to me.

Once again, if Colorado Springs had its way, none of this could have happened. Those who would silence the offensive always end up silencing the prophets also.

Nine months ago, reading Fr. Tucker's post on problems in theology, I mused about Heidegger (cannibalized for parts) as a source for philosophical theology today. In turning to one of his sources, Kierkegaard, or more precisely, Arnold Come's two volumes on SAK, Kierkegaard as Humanist and Kierkegaard as Theologian, it is impressive how much Heidegger owed to Kierkegaard. Arnold Come early in Humanist observes that many readers of SAK took his anthropology, or parts of it, leaving his theology behind. Whether one can consistently do that is dubious; Come promises more on that later.

Fr. Tucker wants a ``rigorous philosophical context,'' and on reflection, that strikes me as unlikely: after Kant, there is not system, only conversation in philosophy (when things are not just strife). There is no general agreement on any system. Theologians have to fend for themselves.