December 2005 Archives

Bible Searching

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The ESV blog posts some statistics (with nice graphics) of which passages have gotten the most searches and views at their site. Some of it's pretty interesting. What's sad is that Jeremiah 29, a wonderful chapter, gets viewed pretty much only when people read Jer 29:11 out of context.

This is the the eighteenth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. I've posted an earlier version of this a while ago, but the comments degenerated into a discussion of things completely unrelated to the post. That time, it was a version of my notes on this that hadn't been altered since 2001. I've decided to expand it a bit based on further study of the subject, even though I haven't taught all these issues in the course that this series is based on. I should also say that my presentation depends heavily on William Rowe's work, most importantly the short article he wrote for introductory courses that appears in Reason and Responsibility, ed. Feinberg and Shafer-Landau, with one reference to one other text I have used in that course, Jan Cover and Rudy Garns's Theories of Knowledge and Reality (abbreviated TKR).

The cosmological argument for the existence of God is one of a number of classic arguments sometimes used in conjunction with each other to establish the existence of a being with some of the characteristics generally taken to be true of God. I'm going to look at three such arguments, each contributing something different to the overall picture The cosmological argument in particular occupies a very small role in any overall picture of how some have offered argumentation in support of theism.

Christian Carnival CII

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Searches: False Assumptions

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no such thing as an illegal war
Sure there is. Civil wars and revolutions are generally illegal. (The only difference between the two is which side wins.) A nation can have laws about when and how it can initiate or continue a war, in which case failing to meet such standards would make it an illegal war. Through WWII, the U.S. couldn't legally go to war without a declaration of war by Congress. If those standards still applied, every military action the U.S. has engaged in since then would have been illegal. It's true that standards a bunch of nations endorse do not for that reason alone apply as legally binding to any nation that doesn't sign on to them, which I think is exactly the situation with Kofi Annan's pretense that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was illegal (and probably what this search was intended to find an argument for) but that doesn't mean there's no such thing as an illegal war.

Michael J. Fox: Commentary on Proverbs
I sure hope not. Or did you mean Michael V. Fox? Incidentally, Michael J. Fox's best movie is Mars Attacks! I love his character's fate.

will cloned dead people have a soul and go to heaven?
Try to count all the assumptions here. Three come to mind immediately: that everyone with a soul will go to heaven, that you need an immaterial soul to go to heaven (perhaps the best of the possible views, but that isn't something to assume at the outset), that there will ever be any cloned people, etc. The fourth is my favorite: if we do clone people, and people do have souls, why the frak would anyone think cloned people wouldn't have souls? How should the means of creation of a human being result in a human being of such a different nature than any other means of producing a human being?

A little while back, Jollyblogger responded to my criticism of Sabbatarianism. His general view seems to be that the 10 Commandments are part of the moral law, while other laws were abrogated. Jesus then must have been talking about only this segment of the law (a segment the Bible never isolates as such) that he calls the ceremonial law. I think it's much more obvious that Jesus really was talking about the whole law as fulfilled. One might wonder why he felt free to break some but keep some of the law, if all of it will never pass away. Well, it's important to remember that the one part of the law that he kept not keeping was the Sabbath command. He allowed his disciples to gather grain on the Sabbath. If that doesn't constitute doing something that the law would prohibit, I don't know what does. This signals that he didn't see the Sabbath command applying. So there's no biblical distinction between ceremonial and moral law, with some abiding and some not (rather all is fulfilled in Christ, and some moral truths that formed the basis of some of the Torah continue on). And even if you did have such a division, the moral law part of the Torah is one thing Jesus kept going against.

David also tackles my discussion of the weaker brother of I Cor 8-10 and Rom 14-15. He doesn't think I'm accurately characterizing the Sabbatarian as the weaker brother in these passages, even if my view is correct that Sabbatarianism is wrong. His reason is that Sabbatarians wouldn't be likely to stumble by violating their own conscience simply because they see believers they respect not keeping the Sabbath. They would be more likely to judge their brother or sister, and David says that's not the problem of the person Paul refers to as the weaker brother. Actually, he's right but only about I Cor 8-10. The danger the weaker brother in that passages faces is doing something the weaker brother considers wrong (but that isn't really wrong), but it's wrong to do what one believes wrong. I can't see how a Sabbatarian couldn't have this happen. Any time someone believes a regulation is morally obligatory, they can be tempted to violate it because they see someone they respect doing so. But even ignoring that, Romans 14-15 gives further problems facing the weaker brother. "Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother?" For we will all stand before the judgment of God" (Romans 14:10, ESV). Judging is certainly a worry for the weaker brother. "Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother" (Romans 14:13, ESV). So I think these terms do apply.

Christian Carnival CII Plug

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The 102nd Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at The secret life of Gary. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Searches: Bible Theme

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A couple of these were from a while back (perhaps even a month ago), and I just never got around to posting them. The third one was more recent. I hope what they found on this site helped disabused them of their misconceptions.

bible says cheating on wife ok if it isnt with a married woman ok
If it's wrong even to look lustfully at a woman other than one's wife, then how would it be ok to have sex with such a woman just because she isn't married?

there's no evidence the bible account is true
Isn't the mere fact that it's mentioned in the Bible at least some evidence that it's true? Many people might say the fact that miracles are so isolated and seemingly against what we think are the correct natural laws, and therefore they'll say there's more evidence against certain things, but that doesn't mean there's no evidence. The fact that it's recorded in an ancient text is at least some evidence, never mind any arguments in favor of biblical texts in particular over other ancient texts.

rick warren says bible offensive
I should hope so. The Bible itself calls the gospel offensive, so if Warren wants to be faithful to it he'll agree.

Sidebar Display Problem

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I usually use Firefox on my own computer, but I've used five different computers in the last week. I've gotten a little annoyed that my blog looks fine in Firefox on my computer, Sam's computer, and the computers I use at work, but the sidebar gets shifted below the lowest post on Internet Explorer on my computer and on another one I've looked at (but not on another one, and I didn't check I.E. on the other two). Does anyone have a suggestion about what might be causing this and if there's an easy fix?

If and When

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Sometimes people will be unsure of something they think might happen. They will then say "if and when it happens, we need to be prepared" or some such thing. I have never understood what this is supposed to mean. If they just said, "when it happens...", then they would have been assuming that it would happen, when it might not happen. My guess is that somehow, to avoid that impression, someone started saying "if and when...", and then they were sure to have covered all their bases. The only problem with this is that you can do that simply by saying "if it happens...", because that allows for both possibilities -- its happening and its not happening. So were the people who first started using this odd conjunction simply unaware of that?

What's worse is that they made it a conjunction rather than a disjunction. If they thought of 'if' and 'when' as two distinct possible introductory connectives, then they should have said "if or when...", but that's not what people say. What is 'if and when' even supposed to mean, then? I think it just means the same thing as 'if'. I think it also means the same thing as 'if or when'. It's a strange sort of redundancy, though, because it's not analyzable in terms of its components as 'if or when' would be (though that's redundant also, just a more easily analyzable redundancy). So what's going on here? When annoying expressions are as commonly used as this one, it's a great relief when someone can explain them in a way that makes them much less annoying, but no one's ever done that with this one. Is there something I'm missing?

Christian Carnival CI

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The 101st Christian Carnival is up at the Bible Archive.

In my last post on Intelligent Design, I argued that ID arguments are consistent with the standard evolutionary picture that most scientists accept, even if a number of its supporters disagree with that picture in terms of common descent. I wondered at the end why opponents of ID consistently misrepresent the ID argument, saying that I would leave that for a further post. I want to take that issue up now. There are two general possibilities. They understand what ID says and deliberately misrepresent it, or they simply don't understand that it's not saying what they present it as saying.

The principle of charity requires me to presume the second option. But why would smart scientists fail to see what seems to me to be so obvious? I have to think the main reason is that scientists aren't well-schooled in the metaphysical distinctions they assume regularly for their scientific work. I wonder how much of this is just ignorance of the metaphysical assumptions of science and the possible metaphysical positions consistent with our best science. I've certainly run across people who are profoundly ignorant on such matters, including some scientists whose work is widely respected. Some even assert that ID can't be science because it's philosophy, which is far closer to the truth than the ridiculous assertion that it's religion. But it's still at best misleading to make such a claim, because so much of science simply is philosophy, particularly metaphysics and epistemology. I think that's exactly the point that scientists don't seem to see.

I don't agree with all of Thomas Kuhn's conclusions, but one thing he demonstrated fairly clearly is that our metaphysical assumptions are part of our scientific theories, and the same is true of evolutionary theory. We arrived at much of our best science via philosophy, and much of our best science simply assumes metaphysical views that scientists tend to share. Some research that takes place in physics departments is almost pure philosophy, even though it usually takes its starting point from some empirical data, and many of these claims simply cannot be empirically verified or falsified. Consider:

These three were among some of the more amusing ways people have found me through Google in the last couple weeks. For some reason the funny ones have been getting sparser lately. Are all men created equally Well, I suppose we all come into existence in an equal sort of way (ignoring Jesus and Adam and Eve). [I prefer bad grammar that results in really humorous images, but I take what I get handed.] a triangle where the angles add up to 270 Right. Those are the same triangles that have are round and have five angles. barbecue coal. I get this one from time to time (this is at least the third time, but it might be well more than that), and I finally decided to include it in a search roundup. Why is this interesting or funny? See the comments on the post the search took them to.

Does the ESV Have an Agenda?

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My brother responded to my post about Ben Witherington and the ESV via email, saying that the ESV most definitely arose from an agenda, and I thought it might be worth clearing up what I'm saying and what I'm not saying. I was aware of the ESV agenda he refers to. He's right. They had a deliberate agenda in initiating the work that led to the creation of the ESV. That agenda had nothing to do with inclusive language translations, however. I wasn't thinking in that direction, because my focus was on gender translation. The ESV agenda was to make a more conservative-friendly RSV. They wanted a translation much like the RSV but without some of what they viewed as liberalizing tendencies in the RSV. The two most notable of those were the Isaiah 7 "virgin/young woman" issue and the removal of any reference to propitiation, which the ESV was designed to fix. By the time they had a translation, though, it had ended up being much more than a straightforward conservatizing of the RSV with updates in style. As I noted in my previous post, they paid a good deal of attention to recent developments in text criticism, comparative linguistics, and all the usual factors that would influence a new translation to improve upon an older one. It became a new translation in its own right because of the work of some very good scholars who insisted on revising a lot more in the RSV than the original agenda had in mind.

I want to stress that, while I'm admitting that they had an agenda, this agenda was not primarily to do with gender. That's something a few people who were involved later made an issue. This was only after the TNIV issues become hotly debated, and it mostly was about how some people were promoting the ESV, not primarily about how they went about translating it. Most or all of the translation work had already been completed when the TNIV issue exploded, and the ESV people began their efforts to promote the ESV as a non-inclusive language alternative. These efforts had the immediate effect of convincing some people (including a friend of mine) that this was Grudem's own translation, and they dismissed his arguments against the TNIV on the grounds that he was saying it merely to promote his own translation. No, the arguments are to be dismissed because they are bad arguments, not because the ESV is Grudem's translation. He might have had some influence on how it came to take the form it took, but it's not his translation, not all the translators share his views, and the agenda of the ESV committee was not about this issue at all during the actual translation process. At best, that was a promotional agenda taking advantage of the irrational mass hysteria against the TNIV. A number of its translators did favor non-inclusive translation in general when they translated it, but that wasn't the initial reason for the ESV, as Witherington suggests, and that view isn't necessarily as extreme as Grudem's even on that issue. For some it is. For some on that committee it isn't. For a few on that committee, even the moderate opposition to inclusive translation is wrongheaded. So Witherington is claiming that he knows how the ESV originated, but these statements just sound to me as if he doesn't in fact know very much about how it originated. That's why I think he sounds just like those who claim that the TNIV stems from radical feminists who want to impose an ultra-feminist agenda on the Bible in their translation. Both claims are simply false.

Christian Carnival CI Plug

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The 101st Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at The Bible Archive. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Anti-ESV Politicking

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Wayne Leman has an excellent post on why Wayne Grudem's relentless tirades against the TNIV are misguided and morally questionable. I agree that those who criticize the inclusive language translations are ignoring real changes in the English language. I've made this point numerous times in the past, and I won't belabor it. What strikes me as odd is that one of Wayne's co-bloggers Suzanne McCarthy the next day links favorably to a post by Ben Witherington that seems to me to exhibit the same sort of rhetoric as Grudem but against the ESV rather than the TNIV (with no reference whatsoever to anything negative about how Witherington makes his point). Witherington is a top-notch biblical scholar whose work I have really appreciated. I have a few theological and interpretive disagreements with him, but I have benefited from much of his work, and he's usually fairly responsible in fairly representing those who disagree with him. On this issue, however, it's as if no one on the other side could possibly be considered intelligent or reasonable. His responses to comments about this haven't completely disabused me of that perception.

I think it's just as irresponsible to criticize the ESV the way Witherington does as it is to criticize the TNIV the way Grudem does. Suzanne's post does give cases where the different ESV translators don't act consistently. I haven't checked all her examples, but I don't doubt her conclusions. That sort of inconsistency happens in translations by committee. Witherington, though, claims that the ESV has a political agenda in the same uncharitable way that the TNIV detractors claim that the TNIV has a political agenda. I think both claims fail to understand the issues, and I think the misunderstanding is fairly deep. The central issue of debate over how to translate these terms is how to balance out two legitimate concerns. One concern (Witherington's) is that the English language is in the process of changing. In some dialects it gets the semantics completely wrong to use 'man' or 'brothers' when referring to humanity or a group of people of both sexes. In others it's completely standard. In some it's frowned on but understood, and if it's semantically understood but simply viewed as morally wrong then the English language hasn't fully changed. So some dialects are still in the process of changing. These aren't entirely regional dialects either. They're generational somewhat, and educational levels affect them as well.

Typepad Problems

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If your favorite blog looks as if it's lost its most recent posts, check see if it's hosted by Typepad. They're having problems right now, and blogs hosted there are displaying information from older backups. No one can log in or post to give any of their readers any information on why this is happening, so it's up to those of us who don't use Typepad to spread the word. I did discover that I can read Jollyblogger's latest posts in his RSS feed. They just don't appear on the blog, and you can't comment. I haven't tried to submit a trackback to them yet, which is why I'm not going to bother responding to his response to me on the Sabbath issue, which I had wanted to get to yesterday but never got around to.

Christian Carnival C

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Nick Queen has the honor of hosting the 100th Christian Carnival. Nick started this whole thing a little less than two years ago, so it's fitting that he gets to host the big C. Most of the earlier contributors haven't been as involved lately, and may be one of the few old-timers to appear in this centiweekversary edition. I haven't had a chance to read any of the other entries yet, but some of the titles and descriptions sounded intriguing, so I encourage you to check it out. Meanwhile, I have a huge stack of grading to continue to attend to.

Strange Searches

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I keep getting searches along the following lines. It usually has two philosophers, including Aquinas, Aristotle, Plato, and maybe a few others. It has the word 'open' in it. I've seen "Aristotle open Aquinas", "open Aquinas find Aristotle", and a number of other combinations. One was "philosopher arguing open aquinas find aristotle". One was "open Aquinas, find Plato". Augustine might have been in one or two also, but I don't remember.

What are these people searching for? There are enough of them that there's got to be some common explanation, but I don't see what it might be. The post they keep finding is about open theism and its Greek philosophical roots, and I'm the first Google hit on some of these searches. That doesn't help me figure out why people are searching for this strange combination of terms that looks like some sort of very simple computer lanuage.

There's been a little bit of outrage lately among Christian bloggers about some megachurches that aren't holding meetings of their congregations on Christmas. Not having a meeting on Christmas isn't usually a big deal for some congregations, because they never have Christmas services. Except there's one thing different this year. Christmas is on a Sunday. That means these people are canceling their one main meeting of the week. (That actually isn't true of all these churches, since some of them have their main meeting(s) elsewhen, but it's probably true of most of them.) Jollyblogger takes this on from a Sabbatarian point of view. I'll say up front that I'm not primarily interested in the issues of canceling your main meeting of the week or whether your main meeting should be on Sunday. What struck me in David's post is that he holds on to a view of the Sabbath that I think is extremely difficult to maintain biblically. Leave aside the assumption that if Sunday is the Sabbath then we ought to have our main time of worship on Sunday. I'm interested in whether Christians should observe the Sabbath at all. I think there's a clear biblical case against seeing Sunday or Saturday as a Sabbath for Christians.

The Sabbath command was, as stated, only really for Israel as a nation and an old covenant community. My main reason for thinking this is that Paul seems to remove all reliance on special days or times in Colossians. David's post interestingly includes a response to that argument, one he takes from Peter O'Brien's excellent commentary. I found O'Brien's alternative interpretation of the relevant Colossians verse intriguing and quite plausible absent other considerations. I won't focus on it, because I think there are reasons to think Paul means something stronger than merely not relying on Sabbath observance for salvation. I think Paul really treats it as no longer an obligation in any sense, and I think he sees those who see it as a moral command as in the same category as those who see circumcision as a moral command (which isn't to say that it's the same category as those who think circumcision is required for salvation).

First off, I want to recommend two books on this subject that have seriously affected my thinking, both edited by D.A. Carson. The first is From Sabbath to Lord's Day, which collects a number of scholars' detailed academic work on the history of the subject, the exegesis of the biblical texts, and the theological reflections on how this should shape our view today. Probably half the book is written by Richard Bauckham. Carson, Andrew Lincoln, and Max Turner, are among the four or five other contributors. The second is Worship By the Book, a book primarily about worship, including a biblical theology of worship written by Carson that takes up maybe a little less than half the book. This book is much more geared toward ordinary readers than the more scholarly first book. It doesn't directly touch on this subject, but there's one argument in it that I will be spending the bulk of this post on, so I wanted to mention it at least for the sake of giving credit to Carson for the general argument I'm giving.

I saw this a while back, but I didn't get a chance to comment on it. There's a recent piece on the issue of what intelligence reports Congress received about Iraq before they had their big vote on whether to approve the use of force. Members of Congress critical of President Bush on this issue have been complaining about one argument against some of them, an argument I've made a few times in the past. Some members of Congress who had the same intelligence the president had voted to approve the use of force. They saw wha the president saw, and they at the time agreed with his decision. This especially includes John Kerry, who was on the intelligence committee, but all members of Congress had a package of information that gave them roughly the same set of information Bush had access to. Some have claimed that the information given to Congress was incomplete or corrupted, but bipartisan committees have determined otherwise.

This article has a fairly complete categorization of what was in the intelligence report. Most of them admitted to reading just the five-page summary of the report, and the article details what we know of what was in the whole report and the five-page summary (we don't know any of the classified information that hasn't been released). According to the article, the five-page summary compares very well with what the intelligence agencies and relevant branches of the executive knew, including what doubts they had about some of the intelligence. Almost all of it vindicates the claim that Congress had all the information Bush had. The one piece of information that Bush and co. ignored wasn't actually that significant, because the very people providing it thought the administration's conclusion was correct even if that one piece of information was less than clear. That piece of information was in the five-page summary that the members of Congress read.

Christian Carnival C Plug

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The 100th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Nick started the Christian Carnival 100 weeks ago and has since moved on to other management, but Nick will be hosting its landmark edition. We had just a very small group at the beginning, but it's become a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

The Socrates

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I realized this morning that the Greek language offers a perfect example of why you shouldn't seek to translate in a way that some people inaccurately call literally. The NASB is highly touted as a literal translation, but what it really does is focus on form rather than meaning. Sometimes it just doesn't read like English, because it keeps so much to the form of the original. Sometimes it translates inaccurately, because it prefers form to meaning (e.g. when translating 'anthropos' as "man" rather than "person" or "human being"). What it doesn't do, though, is translate according to form whenever possible. Its translators acknowledge by their actions, if notby their stated view, that form doesn't trump meaning. They just don't apply that principle consistently. A good example of when they ignore form altogether is with the definite article and proper names. In English we don't use an article when giving someone's name. We'll address someone as George or Sarah. We'll refer to them in the third person as Lisa or Tom. We use words for inanimate objects or titles with articles. We use the definite article when there's only one of the item in question, the indefinite article when there's more than one. When there's an ambiguity (e.g. there's one current President of the United States, but there are many former ones and presumably many future ones), we use the definite or indefinite article to indicate which sense we mean. We might ask for a president whose birthday is in February, or we might ask which month the president's birthday is in. But we don't use these articles with proper names. We'd ask when George W.'s birthday is. We wouldn't ask when the George's birthday is.

The Greek language that the New Testament was written in consistently uses definite articles with proper names. To translate in a way that people often mistakenly call literally, i.e. keeping to form over meaning, we would have to say that the Paul went to Athens in Acts 17, the Simeon prophesied about the Jesus, and (most humorously) the John saw a vision in Revelation. You can see immediately how this simply isn't English, and the last example shows that you even get completely the wrong meaning. In English we do call something the john, but it doesn't have visions or write them down. You could even go back to classical Greek and talk about the Socrates. If the translators who insist on form over meaning are correct, this is how we ought to translate. Yet they don't do it, which means they aren't following their own preferred strategy. They will count meaning as more important than form. They just insist on certain forms as fundamental, as if the form of the original language in that case is somehow sacrosanct rather than the content of the statement.

I understand that there are cases where the form conveys something in the original that you lose when you translate the more fundamental meaning over the form. Those are harder cases. But the view I've been defending on this blog has not been that sense trumps form. It's been that sense and form both convey something, and you try to balance that out to convey the meaning as best as you can. You will lose something. You might have a more extended sentence to try to get everything, but then you're not conveying how short the original statement was. You might ignore the form for the sense, but then you lose what the form conves. You might ignore the sense for the form, but then you lose the sense any original reader would have gotten from reading it. Translation isn't perfect. My point isn't that one of these translation styles is better than any other. It's that you have to make choices to lose something when you translate, and the choices you make don't have to be based on the same overarching principle each time. Even those who act as if that's what they're doing don't do that, as the NASB's treatment of these definite articles shows. They just do it more than others, and I think it makes for a worse translation. I've long thought the NIV to focus too much on the sense for the educated adult who can use resources to study what the NIV thinks they need to put in the translation. The TNIV has actually improved on the NIV in this way, bringing it more toward form and less toward sense (except in the case of inclusive language, which just applies their already-existing sense translation philosophy to gender language that has the inclusive sense in the original language). The NLT is much more sense-translating, but I think it's done in a scholarly way, unlike most sense-favoring translations. It's my recommendation for people learning English, including children. I think the HCSB and ESV follow a much more balanced policy, translating according to sense or according to form when they think it's appropriate. I don't agree with all the instances of when they do what, but I appreciate their insistence on forming a middle ground between the NIV and NASB on this. I think the HCSB is more toward sense and the ESV more toward form, whereas I would probably be somewhere between them in many ways, but these are the kind of translation I like to read.


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Christian Carnival XCIX is up at Attention Span. The 99 theme is kind of fun. One more to the big 100, which will be returning to the Carnival's founder. I didn't get Agent 99, but at least I ended up with the second best of the categories, Interstate 99, which I'd never known about before. Current plans include extending into my own state. (They violated interstate naming conventions, though, by putting 99 west of 81. I'm not sure what they were thinking. It's immoral to break that sort of convention, particularly when people put such great work into organizing it in a way that you can usually predict what an interstate's number means.)

At the Banty Rooster, Global Warming is Really Global Cooling. [HT: Blogwatch]

Eugene Volokh has an op-ed in the L.A. Times about how easy it is to get a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Previous nominees include Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Castro. Now what I'm wondering is who counts as a professor, because there are some low-lifes that I might be able to nominate if all it takes is to teach at the college level.

Jollyblogger points out a beautiful Yale prank against Harvard.

Sam's put some more pictures online. Ethan and Isaiah were wrestling this week. For some reason Ethan was really frustrated that Isaiah kept not being where Ethan wanted him, so he kept pushing him and lying on top of him to prevent him from moving. Eventually Isaiah started enjoying it, thinking it was playful wrestling. Ethan continued in his frustration the whole time. It was really weird. It was as if the world would end if Isaiah got up. There's also one of Sophia watching the boys go off to school.

Commentary Stuff

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1. A few years ago I found an excellent commentary review site that really helped me get going with building a commentary library. A few months later, it disappeared. I don't remember the name of the guy who put it together, but I've just discovered John Turner's Commentary Reviews, which seems very close to the style of the site that disappeared. I suspect it's the same person putting his material back online. Unfortunately, only Genesis is up so far, and a few features are still incomplete, but a little exploration indicates that he's got material he's already written that he just hasn't put up yet. If it is the same site, it was never complete to begin with, but it went through the gospels, and the dead links here do the same. I hope the rest of this gets put up quickly, because it really was a great resource. Update: John seems to have a new website with some of his commentary reviews. It doesn't have Genesis, but it does have Ruth, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. He told me the original commentary review site was hosted by his denomination, and they took his reviews down without any explanation.

2. I've updated my Forthcoming Commentaries post a good deal recently. I've added the Blackwell Bible Commentaries (which is actually a misnomer, because this series aims to comment on later comments on the Bible without ever focusing on the text itself), and just this morning I received word of a few ICC volumes I didn't know about, along with a NICNT Mark replacement volume. Since the summer, which was the last time I posted something new indicating updates on the post, I've added the Brazos Theological Commentary, the revisions to the Expositor's Bible Commentary due out shortly, a whole bunch of Hermeneias, a new series by Kregel, a number of volumes for the New Cambridge series, the immoral Smith & Helwys series that scholarly-level prices (think ICC, Hermeneia) for what amounts to a popular-level commentary (think Interpretation, Tyndale), a new in-depth series by Zondervan, and various isolated commentaries scattered throughout the original series I had listed before all the updates. I've also just added full titles for series whose names I had just abbreviated with the common designations (e.g. NICOT, BECNT, WBC, NIGTC).

Thinking in Proverbs

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"A fool's tongue is long enough to cut his own throat." -- Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 (2004), p.102.

Waltke is summarizing a bunch of statements from Proverbs on wise use of words, and right in the middle of his summaries (usually followed by a bunch of verse references) he has this one proverb of his own (with no verse references). I guess when you write a 1200+ page commentary on the book of Proverbs, you begin to think in proverbial form. I have to say that it's quite an image.

There's a slightly cheesy but still funny passage two pages later that doesn't fit the same description, but I thought I'd include it while I'm quoting Waltke:

As these means of obtaining wealth show, it is a matter of character, not of method. Proverbs is a "how to be book," not a "how to" book. Solomon is a better theologian than Frank Sinatra: Sinatra sang, "Do-be, do-be, do"; Solomon sings, "Be-do; be-do; be."

Discrimination as Hate

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The Syracuse University Daily Orange has an interesting article about the LGBT group making a list of bathrooms that would be more favorable for transgendered people [registration probably required], particularly so that they know which bathrooms are single-occupant and which have offensive graffiti. I don't want to get into the general issue of why this is or isn't a good idea or what we should think about the transgender phenomenon as a whole. I've commented on some aspects of those things previously. (It's not clear in the article, but I don't think anyone here is advocating making all bathrooms co-ed, since that would surely make many more people uncomfortable going to the bathroom than the current situation.)

What struck me as very strange, though, was a quote from a student:

The directory is a good idea because people should not feel nervous about going to the bathroom," said Sarabeth Schoeneck, an undeclared sophomore in the College of Human Services and Health Professions. "SU claims to be "no place for hate, and people being discriminated against in the restrooms is a form of hate," she said.

This seems to me to be a huge mistake. I think I have a pretty clear idea of what hate is, and I think I could give plenty of examples of when discrimination stems from hate, but the mere fact of discrimination is simply not hate. Sometimes discrimination occurs unintentionally. Sometimes it's from something like residual racism, where someone might have an immediate response of fear or discomfort because of someone else's race even if they rationally cannot stand the fact that they have such a response and really try to overcome it. Yet it might unconsciously affect some of their decisions and actions. Anyone who thinks that sort of discrimination is hate is morally insensitive.

What's even worse is confusing institutional discrimination with hate. Many authority positions are occupied disproportionally by white males, and white males tend to have disproportionally white male friends, both for largely innocent reasons with respect to their own choices. Given these realities, the practice of favoring people you know in hiring has a disproportionate effect on racial and gender lines. Those who aren't white males will tend to be less likely to be hired. That's a simple statistical fact, and this one practice will offer resistance to overcoming discrimination. So an institution or an overwhelming tendency in society can promote discrimination without any intentional discrimination. That seems to me to be exactly the sort of discrimination you might call this. How, then, is it hate? I think we're just so unaccustomed to seeing real hate in these matters that we have to invent it to have something to talk about. What's ironic is that most people making claims like this wouldn't know real hate if it bit them on the leg, and yet it's pretty common in academia. But hatred of those whom it's politically correct to hate doesn't count as hatred, while mindless processes and attitudes people are desperately trying to overcome do.

Adrian Warnock has a post about the Southern Baptist Convention's recent decision not to hire any missionaries who practice speaking in tongues and to require current missionaries to refrain from doing so in public. This decision seems to be getting a lot of bad press, and I think the reasons for criticism are almost all faulty. I don't agree with the details of their decision, but I think the charges of hypocrisy, inconsistency, and disobedience to the scriptures are false charges.

First is the charge of disobedience to a direct command in I Corinthians 14:40. "Do not forbid speaking in tongues" (ESV). If the SBC has told their missionaries not to speak in tongues, doesn't that amount to forbidding speaking in tongues? It does seem as if it violates a direct scriptural mandate. However, if cessationists have the correct hermeneutic, then not following the command not to forbid tongues is like most evangelicals' not following the command that women wear head coverings and like everyone's not following Paul's command to Timothy to bring him his cloak. Given cessationism, it's simply wrong to expect this command to apply today, and thus what the SBC did is not a deliberate violation of scripture. I'm no cessationist, but the SBC is. Challenge their cessationist view, but don't pretend they're deliberately violating scripture unless you can show that they see this command as applicable today. As far as I've ever known, their hermeneutic doesn't take it to apply today. Maybe theiur hermeneutic is wrong, but charging them with disobeying a direct command doesn't, in their interpretive system, making any more sense than complaining that you're not sacrificing goats or calves, which violates numerous direct commands in Leviticus.

Paul Baxter and I have been discussing pacifism and just war theory a bit in the comments on this post, and I've discovered that I've never posted my reflections on just war theory and Iraq. I should have a later version of all this somewhere, but maybe it got lost in a hard drive failure or something, and I can't find it online anywhere. So what I've got is something I wrote on April 4, 2003, just after the allied forces began invading Iraq. I'm not changing anything here, so this reflects my thoughts at the time. I've learned a bit more about just war theory since then, and there have been plenty of revelations in the followup to the invasion, but this concerns simply what just war theory would support given what we knew at the time. I'm not sure I'd still endorse eveyrthing I say in this, but I think it represents my thinking in most of its details even after all we've learned. [Update: I did find one later treatment of this lifted from my lecture notes with bad formatting. I'm not sure why the Ektopos internal search engine couldn't find that post. I had to use Google.]

From this point on, everything is from my previous piece.

The war is on now, so objections won't stop it, but I've had some thoughts about the objections given in light of a just war theory, and they're worth detailing and examining. One issue is how Christian just war theory is, and the other is how this war stands up in light of traditional just war theory. Some claim that just war theory is a pagan notion imported into Christianity with the Romanizing of Christianity. Some just say that just war theory wouldn't allow this war. These two issues intersect in a couple ways, and I wanted to set forth some things to think about in relation to them.

The 99th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Attention Span. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following: on Alito

| | Comments (0) tackles an anti-Alito ad making three misleading claims. The three issues are the strip-search case that I've mentioned before, his statement 20 years ago that the Constitution doesn't prevent the right to abortion, and discrimination case that didn't have enough evidence to demonstrate deliberate discrimination, which is all the law can do anything about. I have to wonder if their writeup is correct in its description, though. They say there's a lot of background that would lead many people to interpret the facts in a more positive way, but they say the claims of the ad are technically true. Are they?

If someone presents a judge's decision as ruling to approve X, when he finds X legal but morally reprehensible, I think it's simply a false claim. He's not voting to approve it if he thinks it's morally wrong. He might be voting to allow it. What's more accurate is that he was voting to rule that the law allows it. Saying that he voted to approve it is just not true. More obviously, if they present him as having voted to make X easier, and all his vote would have accomplished if it had been successful was to retain the status quo, then the claim is false. He didn't vote to make it easier. Furthermore, it sounds like a purpose statement, and that statement of purpose is false if he didn't intend to make discrimination easier, which his opinion shows he didn't. Only the abortion statement is technically true. Both other claims are not just misleading but outright false.

David Bernstein points out something really stupid about the universities that won't allow military recruiters on campus because they don't approve of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". The claim is that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is discriminatory, and therefore universities with anti-discrimination policies can't allow recruiters on campus. It's not discriminatory in terms of whether it allows gays into the military, but it is discriminatory against those who are openly gay. If it's wrong to discriminate against people because they talk about their sexuality, then this is a wrongful policy.

Bernstein simply accepts that this is correct. What troubles him is that military recruiters are targeted for a boycott, when they're simply following orders, orders handed down not from superior (military) officers but from the civilian government. Why isn't this a boycott of the government that instituted this policy rather than a boycott of those who merely are forced to carry it out? This really does make these university policies seem really stupid. In one respect it's a little like shooting the messenger.

He also makes a comparison I hadn't thought about. The evil our military is currently engaging is much more serious than the evil of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". These university policies undermine our efforts to combat that evil. Doesn't that mean they're doing more harm than good by focusing on eliminating the lesser evil? Anti-discrimination is an important moral consideration, but is it absolute in a way that it ignores even more significant moral considerations?

I just (for some reason) received the hard copies of my teaching evaluations for last spring, and the online versions I looked at months ago didn't have the reverse side with the written comments, so I was able to see some of the much more useful information finally. One comment stands out as especially noteworthy: "If you didn't read you had no idea what was going on, did not present info in an easy to follow manner"

I read that to one of my teaching colleagues, and he laughed. This is what we try to get across to students in the first week of class. Isn't it a bit lame to omplain that it's true at the end of class, as if that reflects badly on the instructor? In a philosophy class, the instruction time assumes that you've already done the reading. I'm not there to summarize the reading for them just so they won't have to do it. I'm there to help them reflect on it in a way that they would have a harder time doing without someone aware of the broader philosophical tradition, to inform them of whatever the readings did not happen to cover, and to engage in methods of approaching these issues that will clarify things in ways not addressed in the readings. What would be the point of assigning reading if I didn't want them to have thought about these issues before coming to class?

What's especially funny about this is a set of further factors that I didn't notice until I turned the page over to the front. It's a comment on the following question: "How would you rate the contributions of the assigned reading materials to the course? Please explain." The choices were Excellent, Very good, Good, Fair, Poor, or Not applicable. This student chose "Very good". In fact, all of the student's answers on the computer-graded section were pretty good (except for the one about prompt grading, the bane of my teaching existence). I should also note that the student indicated that they expected to receive a C+ in the course and indicated putting in average effort to make the course a success. I'm guessing that the student vicariously experienced the very good contribution of the reading material to the course through seeing that the other students who did it tended to do well in the course. Or something.

Evangelical Blog Awards

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It seems that the Evangelical Blog Awards might not happen this year because of lack of interest. If you think these should happen, go ahead and submit your nominations so that Eric will see that there's interest.

Christian Carnival XCVIII

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Christian Carnival XCVIII is at Cadmusings. There were a few more posts there that caught my interest than there sometimes are. I might be highlighting one or two of them in the next few days.



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